Tue, 09 Mar 2021

Security a Focus Ahead of Biden Inauguration

Voice of America
18 Jan 2021, 19:35 GMT+10

With U.S.-President-elect Joe Biden set to be inaugurated Wednesday, the FBI is conducting security screening of the 25,000 members of the National Guard assigned to Washington to protect the event amid worries of a potential insider attack.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told the Associated Press that he and other leaders have not seen evidence of any threats, and that so far the vetting had not turned up any issues among the Guard members.

"We're continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation," McCarthy said.

McCarthy said there are intelligence reports suggesting outside groups are organizing armed rallies ahead of Inauguration Day.

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, left, accompanied by Gen. James McConville, Chief of Staff of the Army, right, speaks... Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, left, accompanied by Gen. James McConville, Chief of Staff of the Army, right, speaks during a briefing on an investigation into Fort Hood, Texas at the Pentagon, Dec. 8, 2020, in Washington.

Security is an even bigger focus than usual with the inauguration coming two weeks after thousands of supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol. Trump had urged them to march to the building as lawmakers met to certify Biden's victory.

The immediate area around the Capitol is a virtual armed encampment, with fencing and concertina wire encircling the grounds. Authorities have also closed the National Mall along with roads and Metro stations in much of downtown Washington. Bridges into the city from the state of Virginia are also being closed. Thousands of National Guard troops and law enforcement officers are stationed across the area to protect against further violence.

Despite the heightened security concerns, Biden plans to go ahead with the inauguration ceremony in its traditional location.

"Our plan and our expectation is that President-elect Biden will put his hand on the Bible with his family outside on the west side of the Capitol on the 20th," Kate Bedingfield, Biden's incoming communications director, told ABC's "This Week" show.

She said the Biden team has "full faith in the United States Secret Service and their partners who have been working for over a year on the planning to ensure (the inauguration) is safe."

Streets sit largely deserted as National Guard personnel and police close off a block, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Washington, as... Streets sit largely deserted as National Guard personnel and police close off a block, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Washington, as part of increased security ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Trump has refused to concede his defeat or congratulate Biden, while acknowledging there will be a "new administration" come Wednesday.

Trump, ignoring 160 years of the U.S. tradition of an outgoing president attending his successor's swearing-in ceremony to demonstrate a peaceful transfer of power, has announced he plans to skip the inauguration. Vice President Mike President is planning to attend.

Trump instead is planning to leave Washington on Wednesday morning with a red-carpet ceremony as he boards Air Force One for a flight to his Atlantic Ocean retreat in Florida.

Trump's plan has drawn criticism, including from a group of five Democratic members of the House of Representatives who in a letter Saturday to acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller and Joints Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley urged the Pentagon to not divert any resources for what they called a "disruptive departure ceremony for the outgoing president."

"The proposed action is unwise, unconventional, and most importantly, puts the national security needlessly at risk by diverting essential personnel and resources from the protection of the U.S. Capitol, where all of the institutions of government will be represented, to providing for the security, protection, and transport of the outgoing president," the lawmakers wrote. Signatories included Congresswomen Sheila Jackson Lee and Jan Schakowsky and Congressmen Andre Carson, Steven Cohen and Danny Davis.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., signs the article of impeachment against President Donald Trump in an engrossment... House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California signs the article of impeachment against President Donald Trump in an engrossment ceremony before transmission to the Senate for trial on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Jan. 13, 2021.

The House last week impeached Trump for a second time, accusing him of inciting insurrection, and his Senate trial is set to start soon after Biden's inauguration. If convicted, Trump, the first U.S. president to be impeached twice, could be barred from ever again holding office.

Before he leaves office, however, Trump is expected to grant several more pardons, possibly to key supporters convicted of crimes or facing trials.

People familiar with the matter said Trump met Sunday with aides to finalize a list of more than 100 pardons and commutations to issue before his term ends. White House advisers have said Trump has had discussions about preemptively pardoning himself and other family members, none of whom have been charged with any crimes, but that at this point he is not expected to do so.

Bedingfield said Sunday Biden is planning to lay out a "positive, optimistic" vision for the country in his inaugural address on Wednesday and "try to turn the page on the divisiveness, and the hatred of the last four years" under Trump.

"I think that's what Americans all across the country want," Bedingfield said. "They want a government that once again is focused on doing the right thing by them and helping them in their day-to-day lives."

Once in power, Biden plans to quickly overturn numerous Trump policies.

Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Saturday night that Biden "is assuming the presidency in a moment of profound crisis for our nation. We face four overlapping and compounding crises: the COVID-19 crisis, the resulting economic crisis, the climate crisis, and a racial equity crisis."

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