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Biden goes to church before his inauguration

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration (all times local):

3:15 p.m.

The highest-ranking Black member of Congress says former President George W. Bush lauded his role as a “savior” in helping get President Joe Biden elected to the White House.

U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said Wednesday on a call with reporters that the Republican former president told him ahead of the inaugural ceremony that, if he had not given Biden the boost he did ahead of South Carolina’s primary, “we would not be having this transfer of power today.”

Clyburn says Bush went on to say that Biden was “the only one who could have defeated the incumbent president,” Donald Trump. Trump and the Bush family didn’t get along.

Clyburn’s pivotal endorsement ahead of South Carolina’s Democratic primary helped propel Biden to the nomination. Biden won South Carolina by a margin of nearly 30 points.

Clyburn, South Carolina’s only Democratic representative in Congress, is the dean of the state’s Democrats and the third-ranking member of the U.S. House.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT JOE BIDEN’S INAUGURATION AS THE 46TH U.S. PRESIDENT:

Joe Biden took the oath of office at noon Wednesday to become the 46th president of the United States. He takes charge in a deeply divided nation, inheriting a confluence of crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors.

Read more:

— Biden’s first act: Orders on pandemic, climate, immigration

— Biden charts new US direction, promises many Trump reversals

— Vice President Harris: A new chapter opens in US politics

— Analysis: For Biden, chance to turn crisis into opportunity

— Trump pardons ex-strategist Steve Bannon, dozens of others

— Trump frees former aides from ethics pledge, lobbying ban

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

3:05 p.m.

President Joe Biden has spent a few of the first moments of his term at Arlington National Cemetery, honoring fallen veterans with three former presidents and their families.

The president, first lady Jill Biden, and newly sworn-in Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, presided over a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider on Wednesday.

After cannon fire rumbled in the distance, Biden saluted as a military band played the national anthem.

Biden and Harris later briefly touched the wreath before bowing their heads in prayer. The president also made the sign of the cross, then he and Harris stood somberly for the playing of taps.

Joining them at the ceremony were former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura and former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary.

Former President Donald Trump flew to Florida before Biden was sworn into office.

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2:35 p.m.

President Joe Biden’s team has started moving into the White House.

The building began humming again with activity a few hours after Biden’s inauguration Wednesday as staff for the new president started moving into their offices, unpacking belongings and getting the badges that grant them easy access to the property.

New press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that she was “in the building and ready to get to work.” Psaki has scheduled the new administration’s first White House press briefing for later Wednesday.

Biden plans to sign a flurry of executive orders, some overturning actions by former President Donald Trump, once he gets to the Oval Office.

The White House had been largely emptied out of staff after Trump flew to Florida on Wednesday morning, skipping his successor’s swearing-in.

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2:15 p.m.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have taken part in the traditional inaugural military tradition of “Pass in Review.”

Biden, Harris and their spouses stood Wednesday on the East Front steps of the U.S. Capitol to observe the procession of ceremonial military regiments.

Several groupings passed by the steps, with military members saluting the newly minted president and musicians playing traditional patriotic tunes.

The inaugural parade that typically follows was to be replaced by a virtual parade later in the day because of concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Following the procession, the couples climbed into vehicles to travel to Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They were to be joined by the former presidents who attended the earlier inaugural ceremony.

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1:50 p.m.

Congressional leaders have presented President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris with a variety of gifts, including a pair of flags flown over the U.S. Capitol during the inauguration.

The presentations to the officials and their respective spouses happened Wednesday in lieu of a congressional luncheon that typically follows the inauguration ceremony.

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said Lenox had crafted a pair of commemorative vases for Biden and Harris, each weighing 32 pounds (14.5 kilograms).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell gifted them with a pair of U.S. flags that were flown over the Capitol during the inauguration. McConnell noted that both Biden and Harris served in the Senate and “skipped the House altogether.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer presented photos from Wednesday’s ceremony.

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri noted that the Smithsonian had loaned a painting titled “Landscape with Rainbow” by a notable Black painter from around the time of the Civil War.

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1:40 p.m.

Vice President Kamala Harris has now taken on a role that would have typically been performed by the outgoing president.

Harris and her husband, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, stood on the U.S. Capitol steps Wednesday to bid farewell to her predecessor, former Vice President Mike Pence, and his wife, Karen.

The two couples stood and chatted for a few moments, even laughing, on the steps before the Pences got into a vehicle and were driven away.

President Donald Trump typically would have performed the sendoff for his second-in-command but opted to skip Wednesday’s inaugural festivities.

Trump and his wife, Melania, went straight from the White House to Joint Base Andrews earlier Wednesday. He gave a campaign-style farewell speech before boarding Air Force One for a final time as president and traveling to his home in Florida.

Pence opted not to attend that event, instead attending Biden’s inauguration.

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12:50 p.m.

Calm prevailed outside heavily fortified state capitol buildings across the U.S. as Joe Biden was sworn in as president.

The FBI had warned of the possibility for armed demonstrations leading up to the inauguration after President Donald Trump repeatedly and falsely claimed the election was stolen from him.

Fewer than a half-dozen demonstrators showed up outside the capitols in Concord, New Hampshire, and Lansing, Michigan. A lone protester wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat stood outside a chain-link fence surrounding the California Capitol in Sacramento, as dozens of police officers and National Guard troops guarded every entrance.

Three protesters were outside the Nebraska Capitol in Lincoln, one waving a flag that read “Biden is not the president.”

Dump trucks, prison buses and other government vehicles were used to barricade streets around the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta, though no protesters were there.

Michigan lawmakers canceled a session scheduled for Wednesday out of caution. But in Wisconsin, legislators planned to move ahead with a committee hearing that was to be open to the public.

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12:45 p.m.

The official swearing-in ceremony for President Joe Biden has concluded, but more events are planned throughout the day.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden departed the platform at the U.S. Capitol following a ceremony that included Biden taking the oath Wednesday as the 46th president of the United States. Vice President Kamala Harris also took her oath of office, becoming the nation’s first female vice president.

The day included musical performances from Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks. Celebrated poet Amanda Gorman read a piece noting that, “while democracy can be permanently delayed, it can never be permanently denied.”

Following his departure from the platform, Biden was expected to sign paperwork in the President’s Room within the U.S. Capitol. Afterward, he reviews troops outside the Capitol before departing and traveling to Arlington National Cemetery for a ceremony with former presidents in attendance.

Later Wednesday, Biden is expected to make his first official arrival at the White House as president before a virtual inaugural parade.

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12:40 p.m.

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman summoned images dire and triumphant as she called out to the world “even as we grieved, we grew.”

Gorman is 22, by far the youngest inaugural poet since Robert Frost read for John F. Kennedy in 1961. She quoted biblical scripture and echoed the oratory of Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. among others as she recited her poem at President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

She referred to the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, an event that she said helped inspire her to finish her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

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12:30 p.m.

Garth Brooks has sung a gospel-tinged and beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The country superstar took off his black cowboy hat and kept his eyes closed for much of the powerful song, performing it a capella and without strain.

He offered a few dazzling smiles as the sun broke through the crowd and asked the audience to sing a verse with him. He said, “Not just the people here, but the people at home, to work as one united.”

After it was over, Brooks shook hands with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and former Vice President Mike Pence.

Brooks performed during the inaugural celebration of President Barack Obama in 2009. He turned down a chance to play for President Donald Trump in 2017, citing a scheduling conflict.

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12:20 p.m.

More than a hundred people stood in the cold waiting to get through a security checkpoint to reach Pennsylvania Avenue, where they hoped to catch a glimpse of the presidential procession.

People watched the inauguration ceremony on their phones Wednesday, cheering as Vice President Kamala Harris, then President Joe Biden took the oath.

“I feel so hopeful, so thankful,” said Karen Jennings Crooms, a D.C. resident waiting in line with her husband. “It makes us sad that this is where we are but hopeful that democracy will win out in the end. That’s what I’m focusing on.”

Her husband, Vernal Crooms, who attended Howard University at the same time as Harris but didn’t know her, said he was happy to see the Donald Trump era end.

He said, “We’ve turned the page. Light prevailed and the lie didn’t last.”

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12:10 p.m.

President Joe Biden is calling on Americans to overcome their divisions, declaring in his first address in office that “without unity, there is no peace.”

Biden also pledged during his inaugural address Wednesday that he would be honest with the country as it continues to confront difficulties, saying that leaders have an obligation “to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”

He asked even those who did not vote for him to give him a chance. He said, “Hear me out as we move forward.”

As he did frequently during the campaign, Biden pledged that he will be a “president for all Americans” and will “fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”

He added, “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue.”

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Noon

President Joe Biden says “democracy has prevailed” in a country reeling amid a pandemic and a violent melee two weeks ago at the U.S. Capitol.

In his first remarks as president, Biden said Wednesday that his swearing-in marks a day of “history and hope.”

Biden said in his inaugural address that the country has “learned again that democracy is precious.”

He added, “The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.”

Biden also thanked his predecessors from both parties for attending Wednesday’s ceremonies. Former Vice President Mike Pence was also in attendance, while former President Donald Trump skipped the festivities and headed to Florida earlier in the day.

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11:50 a.m.

Joe Biden has officially become the 46th president of the United States.

Biden took the oath of office just before noon Wednesday during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. The presidential oath was administered by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Biden was sworn in using a Bible that has been in his family since 1893 and was used during his swearing-in as vice president in 2009 and 2013. The 5-inch thick Bible, which could be seen on a table next to Biden’s chair on the dais, has a Celtic cross on its cover and was also used each time he was sworn- n as a U.S. senator.

Biden’s late son, Beau, also used the Bible for his own swearing-in ceremony as attorney general of Delaware and helped carry the Bible to his father’s 2013 ceremony.

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11:45 a.m.

Kamala Harris has been sworn in as the nation’s first female vice president.

The former U.S. senator from California is also the first Black person and the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency and becomes the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government.

She was sworn in Wednesday by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court. Vice President Mike Pence, standing in for President Donald Trump, was sitting nearby as Lady Gaga sang the national anthem accompanied by the U.S. Marine Corps band.

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11:43 a.m.

Lady Gaga belted out the national anthem in a very Lady Gaga way — full of fashion and passion.

The Grammy winner wore a large dove pin and a large red sculpted skirt as she sang into a gold microphone, delivering an emotional rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

As she left the podium, she spoke with President-elect Joe Biden and glanced at former President Barack Obama. On Twitter, she was given great marks, especially by many who joked that her skirt was automatically socially distancing.

Lady Gaga campaigned in November with Biden in Pennsylvania, and the two worked together the last time he was in the White House to combat sexual assault on college campuses.

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11:40 a.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump has pardoned Al Pirro, the ex-husband of Fox News Channel host and Trump ally Jeanine Pirro.

The pardon for Al Pirro is in addition to the 143 pardons and sentence commutations that Trump announced earlier Wednesday. Pirro’s pardon was announced just after Trump landed in Florida after leaving the White House and before Joe Biden was inaugurated as the nation’s 46th president.

Jeanine Pirro hosts Fox News Channel’s “Justice with Judge Jeanine.”

Al Pirro was convicted of conspiracy and tax evasion charges and sentenced to more than two years in prison in 2000.

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11:35 a.m.

President Joe Biden has chosen career diplomat Daniel Smith to serve as acting secretary of state until his pick for top diplomat, Antony Blinken, is confirmed by the Senate.

Smith currently runs the Foreign Service Institute that trains U.S. diplomats and is a former ambassador to Greece.

Current and incoming U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday of his temporary appointment, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the official announcement. Biden is set to be sworn in at noon as the 46th president of the United States.

Blinken had a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, and his confirmation is not expected to face obstacles. He would succeed President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

— By AP writer Matthew Lee

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11:20 a.m.

Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration ceremony has begun.

Biden swears the oath of office at noon Wednesday, becoming the 46th president of the United States. The Democrat is preparing to take the helm of a deeply divided nation and inherit crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors.

History will be made at Biden’s side, as Kamala Harris becomes the first woman to be vice president.

The ceremony in which presidential power is transferred is a hallowed American democratic tradition. And this time it serves as a jarring reminder of the challenges Biden faces: The inauguration unfolds at a U.S. Capitol battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks ago, encircled by security forces. It’s devoid of crowds because of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Flouting tradition, Donald Trump departed Washington on Wednesday morning ahead of the inauguration rather than accompany his successor to the Capitol.

Former Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are attending.

The other living former president, 96-year-old Jimmy Carter, previously announced he would not attend.

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11:10 a.m.

Three Supreme Court justices are absent from President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, citing health risks from the coronavirus pandemic.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito did not join the others on the west front of the Capitol Wednesday. Breyer is 82, the oldest member of the court. Thomas is 72 and Alito is 70.

Supreme Court spokesperson Kathy Arberg says some members of the court “elected not to attend the inauguration ceremony in light of the public health risks posed by the COVID pandemic.”

The justices have begun receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, but it is not clear if they all have received both doses.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett and the other appointees of President Donald Trump, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were in attendance Wednesday, along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Roberts was to swear in Biden, while Sotomayor was giving the oath of office to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

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11:05 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence has arrived at the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, were announced at inaugural festivities at the U.S. Capitol about one hour ahead of Biden’s expected swearing-in ceremony.

Pence is representing the outgoing Trump administration at Biden’s inaugural. President Donald Trump is skipping the festivities, departing Washington earlier in the day for the last time as sitting president.

Aboard Air Force One a final time, Trump landed in West Palm Beach, Florida, just before Pence’s arrival at the inaugural platform.

During remarks before his departure, Trump hinted at a comeback despite a legacy of chaos, tumult and bitter divisions in the country he led for four years, telling supporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland “We will be back in some form.”

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11:05 a.m.

A Capitol police officer hailed as a hero for his actions during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol is accompanying Vice President-elect Kamala Harris at the inauguration of Harris and President-elect Joe Biden.

Officer Eugene Goodman confronted the insurrectionists and led them away from Senate chambers moments after Vice President Mike Pence was escorted from the Senate chamber as the rioters stormed the Capitol.

Goodman is a Black man and was facing an overwhelmingly white mob. He is the only officer seen for a full minute on widely circulated footage captured by a news reporter. Goodman stands in front of the rioters and walks backward as the group follows him to a second-floor hallway, where other officers finally assist him.

A police spokeswoman says Goodman’s plainclothes assignment to accompany Harris “is a ceremonial role.″

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11 a.m.

Former Republican leaders and lawmakers are among those gathering at the Capitol for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was attending the Wednesday ceremony to “honor the process” after a year that he said tested the nation’s institutions. He said he was there “out of respect for the peaceful transfer of power.”

Former Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona says it’s “too bad” that outgoing President Donald Trump did not attend for “that handoff that the world can see.”

Flake is a Trump critic. He says he hopes it’s a “moment of renewal” for the nation. He says he thinks “Americans will sleep easier knowing that we have a more steady hand in the White House.”

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10:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump has arrived in Florida after leaving the White House for the final time as president.

Trump said farewell to Washington early Wednesday, leaving before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Trump’s plane flew low along the coast as Biden’s inauguration played on TV on Fox News Channel.

Trump’s family was on the plane with him. He spent some of the flight meeting with flight staff, who went up to say goodbye.

Trump has hinted about a comeback despite a legacy of chaos, tumult and bitter divisions in the country he led for four years.

Trump spoke to supporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, where he walked across a red carpet and boarded Air Force One to head to Florida. He said: “So just a goodbye. We love you.” And the 45th president added, “We will be back in some form.”

Trump departs office as the only president ever impeached twice, and with millions more out of work than when he was sworn in and 400,000 dead from the coronavirus.

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10:35 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden has arrived at the U.S. Capitol ahead of his inauguration as the United States’ 46th president.

Biden and his wife, Jill, arrived at the complex on Wednesday morning, about 90 minutes before his noon swearing-in ceremony. They were accompanied by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, and were greeted by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

The president-elect’s motorcade wound its way through a mostly deserted Washington following a morning church service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Streets that would typically be lined with thousands of inaugural onlookers were ringed instead with a massive security presence to include military vehicles and armed troops.

About 25,000 National Guard members have been dispatched to Washington following the violent melee at the U.S. Capitol two weeks ago.

Biden paused to wave from the Capitol steps before entering the building.

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10:25 a.m.

All of the former U.S. presidents attending President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration have arrived at the U.S. Capitol.

George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, were first to arrive at the complex on Wednesday morning, several hours before Biden’s swearing-in ceremony.

Barack and Michelle Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton followed shortly thereafter, with each couple arriving in separate motorcades.

The other living former president, 96-year-old Jimmy Carter, previously announced he would not attend Biden’s inauguration. Carter and his wife, 93-year-old Rosalynn Carter, have largely spent the coronavirus pandemic at their home in Plains, Georgia.

Carter had been the first former president to confirm that he was attending Donald Trump’s inaugural in 2017.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump departed Washington earlier Wednesday, skipping the Biden inaugural festivities and heading straight to their home in Florida. Trump is the first president since Andrew Johnson not to attend the inauguration of his successor.

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