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Inauguration Day 2021 news: US prepares for Trump pardons during last day in office – live updates

America is preparing for Donald Trump’s final full day in office, during which he is expected to issue a slew of pardons.

He is reportedly considering issuing as many as 100, although US outlets say he will not attempt to pardon himself or direct family members.

It is believed that Trump will release a video later today, touting his list of achievements during his four years in office.

First Lady Melania Trump has also released her farewell message in which, she called for peace and unity, declaring that “violence is never the answer.”

“I ask every American to be an ambassador of Be Best. To focus on what unites us. To rise above what divides us. To always choose love over hatred, peace over violence, and others before yourself,” she said.

Among those rumoured to be in line for a pardon are the rapper Lil Wayne and Dr Salomon Melgen, a well-known eye doctor from Palm Beach, Florida, who is in prison for health care fraud.

Meanwhile, President-elect Biden will deliver remarks at a send-off event in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, before he and his wife Dr Jill depart for Washington DC. Biden will then join his VP Kamala Harris at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to honour the lives lost to Covid-19.

Follow the latest updates below.

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12:36PM

Lady Gaga and Tom Hanks to offer distraction from steel ring around Joe Biden’s inauguration

Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez will attempt to lighten the mood at an unprecedented presidential inauguration inside a new “Green Zone” in Washington, reports Nick Allen.

The national anthem will be sung by Lady Gaga as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in on the West Front of the US Capitol, and Lopez will also perform.

As Hollywood stars flocked to be part of swearing in a Democrat president Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute TV special featuring celebrities including Justin Timberlake, and a “virtual parade” around America.

It will be an attempt by Mr Biden’s team to distract from the massive security operation surrounding the event.

READ MORE: Lady Gaga and Tom Hanks to offer distraction from steel ring around Joe Biden’s inauguration​

12:23PM

Jon Sopel: ‘Trump is leaving – but Washington has changed forever

During four years of reporting on US politics, I saw the outgoing President at his dazzling best and terrifying worst, says the BBC’s US correspondent Jon Sopel.

The storming of Congress by Trump supporters on January 6 was simultaneously one of the most shocking things I have reported on, and yet the most predictable; inevitable even. For four years Trump has denigrated the institutions of government, whenever lawmakers or the judiciary did something he didn’t like. He has fuelled the suspicion in his supporters that there is something rotten at the heart of Washington.

READ MORE: Jon Sopel: ‘Trump is leaving – but Washington has changed forever’ ​

11:59AM

Biden’s top diplomat vows US will lead but restore alliances

Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to be secretary of state, will vow that the United States will “outcompete” a rising China while reviving frayed alliances, in a sea change from Donald Trump’s go-it-alone “America First” approach.

On the eve of Biden’s inauguration, Mr Blinken was set to say at his confirmation hearing that the United States will seek to remain the pre-eminent global power but renew cooperation on common challenges such as Covid-19 and climate change.

“America at its best still has a greater ability than any country on earth to mobilize others for the greater good,” Mr Blinken, a mild-mannered longtime aide to Biden, was to tell the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to his prepared remarks.

“We can outcompete China – and remind the world that a government of the people, by the people, can deliver for its people,” Mr Blinken will say, paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln’s paean to democracy two weeks after a mob of Trump supporters ransacked the Capitol in hopes of overturning Biden’s victory.

In a sharp shift in tone from Trump’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo – who spoke of “swagger,” “American exceptionalism” and global conflict with China – Mr Blinken said he would show “humility.”

“Not one of the big challenges we face can be met by one country acting alone – even one as powerful as the US,” Mr Blinken will say. “We can revitalize our core alliances – force multipliers of our influence around the world. Together, we are far better positioned to counter threats posed by Russia, Iran, and North Korea and to stand up for democracy and human rights.”

11:46AM

A history of inauguration gowns worn by First Ladies

The famously-stylish and sociable hostess Dolley Madison was the first First Lady to host an official Inauguration Ball, in 1809. In her richly embroidered cream dress, with a substantial bustle, she set the tone for generations to come by pulling out all the stops when choosing her inaugural gown.

Today, the inaugural gown is possibly the most important dress that an incoming First Lady will ever wear (she likely holds only her wedding gown in higher regard). Over the years, inauguration dresses have captured the world’s headlines, marked the styles of the times and been immortalised in the fashion history books and at Washington’s Smithsonian Museum.

Our Senior Fashion Editor Caroline Leaper takes a look back at the most significant inauguration gowns in history.

READ MORE:  Inauguration gowns through history: The stories behind what the First Ladies have worn and why

11:29AM

Donald Trump hopes for military parade on final day

While Joe Biden prepares to be inaugurated tomorrow, Donald Trump reportedly plans to kick off his first day back in civilian life with a farewell event for himself at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

Scheduled to begin at 8am (1pm GMT), three hours before Biden’s inauguration, the event may include a military parade and an official armed forces farewell for the commander-in-chief. A large crowd of supporters have been invited, alongside selected backers and current and former officials in his administration and their guests at a huge red-carpet affair.

However, given the ignominious circumstances under which he is leaving office, it remains to be seen whether Trump will be granted his wish.

From Maryland, Trump will fly down to his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. He must land by noon (5pm GMT) as that is when Biden will officially be president and Trump loses access to Air Force One.

11:12AM

The presidential pardon explained

The final days of a presidential term normally see an outgoing president issue a series of pardons to those who have had criminal convictions.

Rumours are swirling about who Donald Trump may pardon, but what is a presidential pardon and how might Trump exercise this power?

READ MORE:  What is the presidential pardon and who may Donald Trump pardon before he leaves office?

10:56AM

Who is Hunter Biden?

Joe Biden’s second son was a primary target for attacks by Donald Trump during the bitter 2020 presidential campaign.

Indeed, it was Trump’s accusations of impropriety on behalf of Hunter Biden that led him to threaten to withhold $391 million (£289 million) in military aid to Ukraine unless they investigated the Biden family’s business dealings. That threat led to the first impeachment of Trump.

Born in 1970 to Joe and his first wife Neilia, Hunter’s early life was marred by tragedy. When he was just two years old, he was seriously injured in a car crash that killed his mother and younger sister, Naomi.

READ MORE:  Hunter Biden: the president-elect’s second son who was the target of Donald Trump’s attacks

10:44AM

How Joe Biden’s 2021 inauguration day will compare to past ceremonies

10:28AM

The ‘Field of Flags’ in pictures

Flags are placed on the National Mall ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden

Flags are placed on the National Mall ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden

Credit:
Alex Brandon /AP

The "Field of Flags" is being used to represent the American public, who are not able to attend the inauguration due to security concerns and the coronavirus pandemic 

The “Field of Flags” is being used to represent the American public, who are not able to attend the inauguration due to security concerns and the coronavirus pandemic 

Credit:
TIMOTHY A. CLARY /AFP

The "Field of Flags" is illuminated on the National Mall as the US Capitol Building is prepared for the inauguration ceremonies for President-elect Joe Biden

The “Field of Flags” is illuminated on the National Mall as the US Capitol Building is prepared for the inauguration ceremonies for President-elect Joe Biden

Credit:
JOE RAEDLE /AFP

10:13AM

Trump’s releases list of statues for ‘National Garden of American Heroes’

Donald Trump has named a host of famous and historical figures he plans to memorialise in a “National Garden of American Heroes”, including black civil rights leaders, an arcade gamer, and the late host of TV game show Jeopardy!, reports Josie Ensor.

In one of his final acts as president, Mr Trump, who leaves office on Wednesday at noon, issued an executive order calling for statues to be made of a long and varied list of 244 people, including Abraham Lincoln, Kobe Bryant, Whitney Houston, and Walt Disney.

Jeopardy! host George Alexander Trebek, who died in November, was considered one of the odder choices, particularly considering he was Canadian-born – though later became a naturalised American citizen.

Some were surprised to see the inclusion of individuals such as Martin Luther King Jnr, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the late liberal Supreme Court Justice who was replaced by Mr Trump’s more conservative pick, and Hannah Arendt, the German-Jewish political theorist who wrote about the rise of fascism and totalitarianism.

READ MORE:  Trump’s list of statues for ‘National Garden of American Heroes’ includes Jeopardy! host and MLK

9:59AM

New US Capitol riot video shows mob rifling through Senators’ desks

9:45AM

Snoop Dogg lobbying for pardon for Death Row Records founder

Rapper Snoop Dogg is reportedly lobbying to acquire a pardon for Death Row Records co-founder Michael ‘Harry-O’ Harris, as America prepares to find out who is on Donald Trump’s final list of pardons.

Mr Harris, 58, was convicted of attempted murder and kidnapping in 1988 and sentenced to 40 years in prison. During his time in jail, he has reportedly reformed his character and has become a vocal advocate for prison reform.

Snoop Dogg is working with two lobbyists, including Alice Johnson, a woman who became a criminal justice reform activist two-and-a-half years ago after her life sentence was commuted by President Trump following extensive lobbying by Kim Kardashian West.

“The president knows about it. I’ve spoken with Ivanka [Trump] and I’ve spoken with Jared [Kushner], and I’ve been told that President Trump is aware of the case and has been reviewing it,” Ms Johnson said. “In reviewing Michael Harris’ case, his story, and what he’s gone through, this is such an unfair case.”

Mr Harris attempted to gain early release earlier this year on compassionate grounds, citing the coronavirus pandemic. His request was denied.

Mr Harris was one of the founders and early financiers of Death Row Records, a rap label that in the 1990s boasted artists Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac on its roster.

Snoop’s attempts to secure Mr Harris’ release face a potential hiccup. Two years ago, Snoop clashed with Trump after he released a music video showing him shooting a fake gun at a clown that resembled the 45th President.

“Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail time!” Trump tweeted at the time.

9:29AM

Inauguration Day 2021: When is Joe Biden sworn in as US president?

Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on January 20, following months of bitter resistance from Donald Trump to the outcome of the November presidential election.

Despite Mr Trump falsely decrying the outcome as fraudulent and the violence seen in the Capitol building on January 6, the US Congress confirmed Mr Biden will become the next President, after they certified 270 Electoral College votes on January 7.

Following the fatal events on Capitol Hill, Donald Trump committed to a peaceful transition of power.

The traditional outdoor ceremony for the new president is set to go ahead – although the threats of further violence coupled with the coronavirus pandemic will scale back the usual celebrations.

READ MORE:  Inauguration Day 2021: When is Joe Biden sworn in as US president, and who is performing at the ceremony?

9:16AM

‘Why the Biden Bounce could beat the Trump Bump’

The incoming president’s stimulus plans and rollout of a vaccine are likely to further support US stocks, says Matthew Lynn.

It might not rhyme, as the Trump Bump did, but at least it alliterates. If stocks are up this week as President Joe Biden takes office then there is no question what it will be called: the Biden Bounce.Amid all the razzamatazz of the inauguration, the possible temper tantrum from the man vacating the White House and the heightened concerns around security on the day itself, the markets will rightly be asking what will be the impact the of the new president on the equity indices.The answer?

READ MORE: Why the Biden Bounce could beat the Trump Bump​

9:04AM

Donald Trump’s presidency: The best and worst moments from his four years in office 

8:48AM

Trump scheduled for busy final day in office

In the world’s busiest job, there is no let off in the final hours. Donald Trump faces a manic last day in the White House.

In a press release of his official schedule, Donald Trump will be working “from early in the morning until late in the evening” and will “make many calls and have many meetings”.

As arduous and gruelling as this sounds, the press release declined to provide further details on who Trump will be speaking with or what they plan to discuss. Presumably it is all extremely important. 

Elsewhere, in a much lighter day of work, President-elect Biden will deliver remarks in his hometown of Wilmington before travelling to DC with his VP Kamala Harris to honour the lives lost to Covid-19 at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

8:28AM

How California overtook New York to become the US state with most coronavirus deaths

With its long warm summers, white sandy beaches and sparsely-populated counties, Californians were certain they were living in one of the best settings to battle the virus, reports Margi Murphy.

But now the Golden State has overtaken New York for the most deaths and hospitals are reaching capacity, with health officials warning the toughest weeks are yet to come.    

California was quick to respond at the start of the pandemic with strict stay-at-home orders, enforced mask wearing in public spaces and school closures, leaving scientists struggling to understand where the state went wrong.

Around three million residents have tested positive in California and over the weekend it confirmed that deaths had hit 32,960, just beating New York’s 32,725.

READ MORE: How California overtook New York to become the US state with most coronavirus deaths

8:10AM

Preparation for Joe Biden’s inauguration in pictures

7:55AM

Joe Biden to block Donald Trump’s plan to lift Covid-19 UK travel restrictions

US President-elect Joe Biden plans to quickly extend travel restrictions barring travel by most people who have recently been in the UK and much of Europe and Brazil soon after President Donald Trump lifted those restrictions effective from Jan. 26.

Mr Trump signed an order Monday lifting the restrictions he imposed early last year in response to the pandemic after winning support from coronavirus task force members and public health officials.

Soon after Mr Trump’s order was made public, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki tweeted “on the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.”

She added: “With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel.”

Until Mr Biden acts, Mr Trump’s order ends restrictions the same day that new Covid-19 test requirements take effect for all international visitors. Mr Trump is due to leave office on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Joe Biden to block Donald Trump’s plan to lift Covid-19 UK travel restrictions

7:40AM

Melania Trump releases farewell message: ‘Violence is never the answer’ 

7:27AM

FBI says Capitol rioter allegedly hoped to sell Pelosi laptop to Russia

A woman identified as having taken part in the storming of the US Capitol is accused of stealing a laptop   belonging to top Democrat Nancy Pelosi which she hoped to sell to a Russian spy agency, according to the FBI.

There is no indication Riley June Williams, a 22-year-old careworker from Pennsylvania, took a laptop from Ms Pelosi’s office. The FBI, which is working off a tip, said in the court record the “matter remains under investigation.”

The complaint, filed late Sunday in US District Court in Washington, sought the arrest of Williams on grounds including “violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.”

Relying on several photos and videos of the chaotic January 6 riot, an FBI agent said Williams was seen near the office of Ms Pelosi, US House Speaker.

A witness, identified in the court document only as W1 but who claimed to be “the former romantic partner of Riley June Williams,” alleged that Williams planned to send the laptop to a friend in Russia to sell it to the SVR foreign intelligence agency.

That sale “fell through for unknown reasons, and Williams still has the computer device or destroyed it,” the affidavit says.

READ MORE:  Woman who ‘took laptop’ from Pelosi’s office in Capitol riot ‘planned to sell it to Russian spies’

7:15AM

Donald Trump prepares slew of pardons for his final 48 hours

Donald Trump is set to issue a slew of up to 100 pardons on his final full day in the White House today, though CNN and Fox News both reported he would not attempt to pardon himself.

As many as 100 pardons and commutations are reportedly being prepared for the US president to sign ahead of noon on Wednesday when he formally hands power to Joe Biden.

Those chosen will join a list of people pardoned since the November election which already includes former Trump campaign figures, one-time Republican congressmen and businessmen.

Mr Trump’s willingness to use the presidential power to pardon criminals has spawned a lobbying drive with lawyers paid tens of thousands of dollars to push potential beneficiaries.

READ MORE:  Donald Trump prepares slew of pardons for his final 48 hours in the White House

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