Biden's Inauguration Week begins as DC security intensifies

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 10:33 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021
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11:13 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Security will be scaled back at Trump Tower in New York City

From CNN's Brynn Gingras and Taylor Romine

Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images
Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

Once a fortress, security in and around Trump Tower on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue will begin to loosen, possibly as early as this week. 

According to a New York Police Department official, police presence will be scaled down once Trump leaves office Jan. 20.  

Streets around the high rise that have been blocked since Trump became President will likely be reopened and barricades are expected to be removed, according to the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity as plans are still being coordinated with the US Secret Service, and other federal authorities.  

A communications center inside Trump Tower will no longer be needed and dismantled, the official added.

Trump Tower has had an increased security presence since Trump won the Republican presidential nomination in the summer of 2016 as it served as the President’s main office and residence, the official said. 

Since the November 2020 election, it’s been the target of protests including in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, with Black Lives Matter activists and Trump supporters alike. 

When asked about changes in security, NYPD spokesperson Detective Denise Moroney said that they will continue to have a "robust presence" at Trump-affiliated locations, including Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. After the inauguration, the department will reevaluate its security presence, she said.

11:11 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Capitol building put on alert after a small fire near the building

From CNN's Manu Raju, Ted Barrett, Abby Phillip, Ali Main and Clare Foran

People evacuate from the West Front of the U.S. Capitol during a rehearsal the 59th Presidential Inauguration in Washington on January 18.
People evacuate from the West Front of the U.S. Capitol during a rehearsal the 59th Presidential Inauguration in Washington on January 18. Carolyn Kaster/AP

In a sign of the level of alert around the Capitol building ahead of the Wednesday's inauguration, US Capitol Police have told people inside to stay inside, away from windows and to not leave due to an exterior security threat. 

The alert at the Capitol appears to be related to an incident that occurred near the Capitol building.

DC Fire's Vito Maggiolo says the incident involved a small fire involving tent that is now out.

DC fire was dispatched at 10:14 a.m. ET and the fire was put out a few minutes ago. He said the response was "very minimal" and it was "pretty much a non-incident."

CNN is told that they are evacuating the West front of the Capitol and the 1st floor crypt.

"I just tried to leave Longworth after getting my Covid test, only to be told that the building is now on lockdown. Apparently some external threat. Propane tanks under some bridge. Stuck in my office," a Democratic congressman told CNN. 

DC Fire and EMS tweeted moments ago about the incident, saying there have been no injuries related to the fire.

CNN's Manu Raju reports:

11:15 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Harris has formally submitted her Senate resignation

From CNN’s Jasmine Wright

Jonathan Ernst/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Jonathan Ernst/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has formally submitted her letter of resignation to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, per a Harris aide.

On Sunday, CNN reported that she was set to do so.

In an op-Ed in the San Francisco Chronicle today, Harris wrote, “Thus, as I leave the United States Senate, this is not goodbye. This is hello,” a nod to her changing position in the Senate as president of the chamber.

“As I resign from the Senate, I am preparing to take an oath that would have me preside over it.”

“As senator-turned-Vice-President Walter Mondale once pointed out, the vice presidency is the only office in our government that 'belongs to both the executive branch and the legislative branch.' A responsibility made greater with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate,” she wrote.

Harris continues to write in that op-ed, that while she will use her power as tiebreaker in the Senate, she hopes to not have to.

“Since our nation’s founding, only 268 tie-breaking votes have been cast by a Vice President. I intend to work tirelessly as your Vice President, including, if necessary, fulfilling this Constitutional duty,” she wrote.

“At the same time, it is my hope that rather than come to the point of a tie, the Senate will instead find common ground and do the work of the American people.”

10:35 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

FBI's New York office arrests man in connection with alleged participation in Capitol riots

From CNN's Brynn Gingras

Nicola Moncada was arrested Monday in connection with his alleged participation in the US Capitol riots, according to the New York field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Authorities said "Moncada is now in custody for his role in assaulting the US Capitol while our representatives were inside performing their Constitutional duties."

"For those still thinking of employing violence to interfere with our Nation’s laws and institutions, our message is simple – don’t do it," Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a tweeted statement

"Making the wrong decision will last a lifetime," he added.

10:39 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Inaugural parade will feature drumlines from Biden and Harris’ alma maters

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced that President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ alma maters, University of Delaware and Howard University, will be represented at the inauguration Wednesday with both schools’ drumlines scheduled to perform live from Washington, according to a press release.

They will escort Biden and Harris from 15th St. to the White House and help kick off the “Parade Across America” with live performances.

According to the release, the parade will begin at 3:15 p.m. ET and feature "diverse, dynamic performances in communities in all 56 states and territories, celebrate America’s heroes, and highlight the diversity, heritage, and resilience of the country."

10:40 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

These are some of the key executive actions Biden plans to sign on his first day

From CNN's Dan Merica

President-elect Joe Biden plans to sign roughly a dozen executive orders, including rejoining the Paris climate accord and ending the travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries, on his first day in office, according to a memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain.

He'll also sign orders halting evictions and student loan payments during the coronavirus pandemic and issuing a mask mandate on all federal property in an effort to either roll back moves made by the Trump administration or advance policy in a way that was impossible in the current administration.

One of Biden's most common campaign trail promises was to tackle an issue on his first day in office — a pledge he usually made to either contrast himself with President Donald Trump or highlight just how important he believed an issue to be.

These promises were made on everything from climate change to immigration to foreign policy, and many are reflected in Klain's Saturday memo, which was first reported by the New York Times.

"During the campaign, President-elect Biden pledged to take immediate action to start addressing these crises and build back better," Klain writes. "As president, he will keep those promises and sign dozens of executive orders, presidential memoranda, and directives to Cabinet agencies in fulfillment of the promises he made."

Beyond executive actions in his first days in office, the memo outlines that Biden plans to send Congress a large-scale immigration plan within his first 100 days in office. The plan would offer a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrations currently in the United States.

Biden rolled out his first legislative priority this week, announcing a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that included direct payments to Americans. Biden made clear during a speech on the plan that he wanted it to be the first issue Congress takes up after he is inaugurated on Jan. 20.

CNN's Jessica Dean reports:

10:19 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Fewer than a dozen arrests in DC associated with the inauguration so far

From CNN's Alex Marquardt

Members of the US National Guard patrol at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 17, 2021.
Members of the US National Guard patrol at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 17, 2021. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Washington, DC, reports that between the Metropolitan Police Department and the federal agencies helping to patrol the inauguration, there have been seven arrests since Friday.

Two were made by the Metro police and five by the federal agencies. CNN has reported on several of these cases individually.

The city also responded to three different reports of suspicious packages. All three were eventually cleared.

There was also a case of a National Guardsman falling ill, according to the report.

The city remains on high alert with check points and closures across a wide-ranging area two days ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.

10:08 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Before leaving the White House, Melania Trump writes about the restorations she oversaw

From CNN's Kate Bennett

U.S. first lady Melania Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House November 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. 
U.S. first lady Melania Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House November 24, 2020 in Washington, DC.  Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Melania Trump will be exiting the White House with the lowest favorability rating of her tenure as first lady, according to a new CNN poll.

At 47%, more people have an unfavorable view of the first lady now than at any point since CNN first asked about views of her in February 2016. The poll, conducted by SSRS for CNN, puts Trump's favorable rating at 42%, with 12% of those asked answering they are unsure of their feelings about the first lady.

Before her departure, which will see a break from tradition by her and her husband refusing to meet with the incoming President, she has written an essay on the restoration projects she oversaw while first lady.

She makes note of the Queen’s Bathroom renovation, the “President’s Elevator,” the marble flooring on the State Floor entry and outside of the East Room, and the Bowling Alley (where she had the balls redone with lettering “The President’s House,” not “The People’s House.”) She notes ongoing restoration of “priceless Zuber wallpaper in the Family Dining Room,” not yet completed.

Trump also comments on the Rose Garden renovation. 

Finally, she acknowledges the build of the now infamous White House Tennis Pavilion, a multimillion dollar, privately funded project she tweeted about more than once during the throes of the pandemic. With the exception of the new grout in the tiles on the State Floor marble, and the Rose Garden, the other projects she mentions in the essay all areas of the White House that are not accessible to the public and can only be used by the first family.


9:24 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

What we know about Trump's Wednesday departure

From CNN's Sam Fossum, Kevin Liptak, Kaitlan Collins, Jim Acosta and the White House team 

A Marine guard stands at the entrance to the West Wing of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021.
A Marine guard stands at the entrance to the West Wing of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. Gerald Herbert/AP

President-elect Joe Biden will officially be sworn in Wednesday, and President Trump does not plan to attend the ceremony, and instead, will leave Washington, DC, that morning.

Here's what we know so far about Trump's departure and expected splashy send-off at Joint Base Andrews:

An early morning departure: Eager for a final taste of the pomp of being president, Trump has asked for a major send-off on Inauguration Day before one last presidential flight to Palm Beach. President Trump is expected to leave from Joint Base Andrews early Wednesday morning and arrive at his Palm Beach resort by the time Biden is being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. 

Trump has told people, CNN's Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins have reported, that he dislikes the idea of leaving Washington as an ex-president and hates the thought of having to ask Biden to use the plane. 

Trump's departure aboard Marine One from the White House South Lawn will likely be visible and audible to the Bidens, who will spend the night before the inauguration at Blair House, across Pennsylvania Ave. from the executive mansion. Its use was offered to them by the State Department rather than the Trumps, who refuse to make contact with the incoming president and first lady. 

Trump and the first lady's departure from the White House South Lawn is expected to look relatively normal. Mustering a large crowd at the White House would be difficult given the intense security in Washington. 

Trump's send-off ceremony: Once Trump arrives at Joint Base Andrews we expect a military-style sendoff and a crowd of supporters. This event is expected to be like a state visit departure event, an official told CNN's Jim Acosta. Some of the pomp and circumstance under consideration for the ceremony includes a color guard, military band, 21 gun salute and red carpet.  

CNN's Kaitlan Collins reported Monday morning that President Trump's friends, allies and former administration officials have started receiving invitations to his send-off ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, according to a person familiar with the invite. 

Presidents typically hold some type event at Andrews before leaving Washington. Ex-President Obama spoke to a crowd of former staffers in a hangar in 2017.

Will there be any sort of handoff between the two men?: Trump remains undecided as to whether he will pen a letter to Biden to leave in the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, although it appears increasingly unlikely. Some of his advisers have encouraged him to think about continuing the tradition. 

Worth noting that early on in his presidency Trump enjoyed showing off the letter he received from Obama to visitors. That letter included what has become a prescient line: "Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it's up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them."

The two men are not expected to meet in person for the traditional meeting at the White House before a shared limo ride to the Capitol.

What about a farewell address?: Aides have pleaded with Trump to deliver some type of farewell address, either live or taped, that would tick through his accomplishments in office. But he has appeared disinterested and noncommittal.