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Biden's inauguration rehearsal postponed due to security risks

January 16, 2021 | 16:51

Joe Biden's inauguration rehearsal has been delayed because of security concerns, told Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli on Friday morning.

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"It is going to take place on Monday, is the current schedule. Secret Service is in charge of running that schedule, but that's done in partnership with Biden team, and it was their decision to delay a day," Cuccinelli told CNN's John Berman on "New Day."

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Members of the National Guard stand outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday in Washington, D.C. Security has been increased throughout Washington following the breach of the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday, and leading up to the Presidential Inauguration. (Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

According to Politico, after last week’s riots in Washington, security officials have locked down the Capitol complex, and the National Guard is expected to deploy more than 20,000 troops to assist with security. Top lawmakers and Homeland Security officials have been alarmed about the rising threats around the inauguration, and the FBI warned this weekend of armed protests in all 50 states.

Cuccinelli cited "online chatter" about Sunday, but said there are "no specific credible threats.", according to CNN.

"The decision was made to delay a day and leave the Secret Service in a position, and the whole team across the Washington metro area, to be prepared to respond on that day if needed," he said.

"We certainly agree there's a good deal of online chatter. It isn't just about Washington, by the way. There's also conversations about state capitols but very unspecific," Cuccinelli said, citing a briefing with state and local law enforcement earlier in the week along with FBI Director Chris Wray. "It's that higher level of tension that we focus on."

Biden’s team has also brought on Lisa Monaco, a former Homeland Security adviser in the Obama administration, to serve as a temporary adviser on security around the inauguration. Monaco, whom Biden nominated to serve as deputy attorney general, has paused her activities related to the nomination as she works with the transition on security matters.

“Ms. Monaco will assist the President-elect and work with the incoming national security advisor, the incoming homeland security advisor, and current security and law enforcement officials, including with the United States Secret Service on their plans for the inauguration,” a spokesperson for the transition said in a statement. “Given the existing threats, Ms. Monaco’s temporary role will be focused solely on the period leading up to the inauguration.”

And on Friday morning, the House Oversight Committee sent letters to 27 transportation and lodging companies — from car rental services like Avis and Hertz to hotel chains like Marriott and Hyatt — urging them to implement "screening measures" to ensure their services aren't used to facilitate domestic terrorist plots surrounding Biden's inauguration.

Committee chair Carolyn Maloney is also asking the companies to retain all January records for potential sharing with law enforcement and to inform the panel of the plans it implemented by the end of the month.

Biden received a briefing on Wednesday about the threats from the FBI, the Secret Service and national security officials.

“In the week since the attack on Congress by a mob that included domestic terrorists and violent extremists,” Biden’s transition team said in a statement, “the nation has continued to learn more about the threat to our democracy and about the potential for additional violence in the coming days, both in the National Capital Region and in cities across the country. This is a challenge that the President-elect and his team take incredibly seriously.”

In Washington, federal and local officials are taking extraordinary steps to bolster security. The National Mall will be closed to the general public on Inauguration Day, an official familiar with discussions has told CNN, and President-elect Joe Biden will no longer take an Amtrak train to Washington next week as previously planned.

What is inauguration day?

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Joe Biden will officially become US president at noon on 20 January. (Photograph: Al Drago/Getty Images)

Even though he won the November presidential election, Biden did not officially become president that day. Instead, the 20th amendment of the US constitution mandates that the terms of the sitting president and vice-president – in this case Donald Trump and Mike Pence, respectively, end at noon on the 20th day of January.

Back in the day, the new president was inaugurated every 4 March. The span between the election and inauguration was shortened to two months with the ratification of the amendment in 1933.

The gap is designed to allow the incumbent president, who is limited to a maximum of two terms, to complete remaining administrative tasks and coordinate a transition of key national security and executive branch information to the incoming administration.

What else can we expect this year?

According to The Guardian, an official inauguration traditionally begins with the president’s processional from the White House to the US Capitol. Harris will take her inaugural oath first, officially becoming the nation’s first female, Black and Indian American vice-president.

For Biden’s swearing in, an invocation will be followed by the pledge of allegiance on the West Front of the Capitol, then the American pop star Lady Gaga is set to perform the national anthem.

A poetry reading, then musical performance by Grammy award-winner Jennifer Lopez should move events along before attendees will effectively be taken to church with a final benediction from the Rev Dr Silvester Beaman of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church in Delaware, a family friend of the Bidens for 30 years.

The president and vice-president typically head to a signing ceremony next, considered the first official action. Then attendees toast at the inaugural luncheon, which dates back to 1897.

Biden and Harris will then make their way to the East Front steps of the Capitol to review a parade of ceremonial military regiments, citizens’ groups, marching bands, and floats that will make their way down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.

The actor Tom Hanks and the musician Jon Bon Jovi join the pop stars Demi Lovato and Justin Timberlake to ring Biden’s presidency in during a “virtual ball” streamed online later that night. The 90-minute special airs live at 8.30pm ET (1.30am GMT) on US network and cable channels.

The committee will also livestream the event on their social media channels, with streaming providers including Amazon Prime Video, Microsoft Bing, NewsNow from Fox, and AT&T’s DirecTV and U-verse joining in.

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