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10 things you need to know today: January 21, 2021

Biden takes office vowing to unite a divided nation, Biden signs a flurry of executive actions on first day, and more


Biden inaugurated as president, vowing to unite a divided nation

President Biden became the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, taking the oath of office outside the Capitol, just two weeks after the building was attacked by a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters trying to keep Congress from certifying Biden's election victory. "Democracy has prevailed," Biden said, vowing to unite a deeply divided nation facing a pandemic and economic crisis. "We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue," he said. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton attended, but former President Jimmy Carter couldn't. Trump declined to go. Thousands of National Guard troops backed up police securing the nation's capital against the threat of further violence by right-wing extremists.


Biden signs sweeping executive actions to reverse Trump policies

President Biden signed 15 executive actions on Wednesday, including one returning the United States to the landmark Paris climate accord that his predecessor, Donald Trump, abandoned. Biden also required masks to be worn in federal buildings, halted construction of Trump's border wall, and reversed other Trump policies, but many of the orders focused on the environment. Trump made a mission out of rolling back policies aimed at preventing global warming that were enacted by the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president. "We're going to combat climate change in a way we have not before," Biden said on his first night as president. Foreign leaders praised Biden's early moves. Some Republicans said Biden's climate policies would kill jobs.


Harris sworn in as nation's first woman vice president

Vice President Kamala Harris made history on Wednesday as she became the first woman, the first Black American, and the first person of South Asian descent to hold the office. Harris also is the first graduate of a historically Black college to become vice president. Harris took the oath of office with her hand on two Bibles. One belonged to a neighbor who was a second mother for Harris and her sister. The other belonged to Thurgood Marshall, a civil rights icon who served as the first Black Supreme Court justice. Harris considers Marshall, a fellow Howard University, a hero. Before Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor administered the oath of office, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said that with Harris in the job, "little girls and boys across the world will know that anything and everything is possible. And in the end, that is America."


Schumer takes over as Senate majority leader

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) officially took over as Senate majority leader on Wednesday, after the chamber's three newest members, Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia and Alex Padilla of California, were sworn in. Their arrival left the Senate evenly split, 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. Schumer said he was "hopeful" after President Biden's inauguration, but he cautioned that the nation still faces challenges and deep divisions in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by an insurrectionist mob of President Trump's supporters, including right-wing militia members and white supremacists. "It takes more than a band of hooligans to bring our democracy down," Schumer said. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), now minority leader, said the nation "deserves for both sides, both parties, to find common ground."


Proud Boys leader charged with urging people to join Capitol mob

A leader of the far-right extremist Proud Boys, Joseph Biggs, was charged Wednesday with encouraging participants in the deadly mob attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters two weeks ago. Court documents said that Biggs, 37, illegally entered the Capitol and engaged in disorderly conduct. He also was accused, along with fellow Proud Boys organizer Enrique Tarrio, of sending messages to associates encouraging them to join the Jan. 6 riot. The men allegedly told Proud Boys members not to wear their traditional black and yellow colors so they would better blend in with the crowd. "Jan. 6th is gonna be epic," Biggs said in one message. Biggs and other Proud Boys were photographed at the Capitol dressed "incognito," as Biggs had demanded, the FBI said in an affidavit.


Stocks rise to record highs on Biden inauguration, strong earnings

U.S. stocks surged to record highs on Wednesday after President Biden took office and fresh upbeat earnings reports came in. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 0.8 percent and the S&P 500 gained 1.4 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq soared nearly 2 percent higher. Netflix shares helped give tech stocks a boost, jumping by 17 percent after the streaming video company reported a surge of new subscribers. Biden signed a barrage of executive actions on his first day in office, undoing Trump administration policies on issues from addressing the coronavirus pandemic to boosting the economy to fighting climate change. Analysts said some investors were cheered by his promise of a massive new coronavirus relief package. "I'm not sure that the politics of inauguration day did much but certainly the expectation for a trillion plus in stimulus," said Ross Mayfield, investment strategy analyst at Baird in Wisconsin. Stock futures inched higher early Thursday.


Trump says 'we will be back' as he leaves office

Former President Donald Trump said during a farewell ceremony on Wednesday morning that serving as president was "my greatest honor and privilege." Trump made the remarks at Joint Base Andrews before leaving Washington, D.C., for Florida ahead of President Biden's inauguration, which Trump declined to attend, breaking a longstanding tradition. Trump, who never acknowledged he lost the election, said he wished "the new administration great luck and great success," though he did not name Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris. Trump also thanked his supporters and touted some of the things he considered his greatest accomplishments. He concluded the final speech of his presidency by saying "we will be back in some form," adding: "Have a good life. We will see you soon."


Biden says Trump left him a 'very generous letter' in Oval Office

President Biden said Wednesday that former President Donald Trump left him a "very generous letter" before leaving the White House on Inauguration Day. "Because it was private, I will not talk about it until I talk to him, but it was generous," Biden said in the Oval Office after signing a flurry of executive orders on his first day in the White House. A senior Trump aide told CNN that the letter was a "personal note" wishing success for the country, and for the Biden administration in caring for the nation. The aide said writing the letter was one of the things Trump did on his last night in the White House. Every president since Ronald Reagan has left a note for his successor on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. Trump said when he took office that he greatly appreciated the "thoughtful" letter former President Barack Obama wrote him.


Senate confirms Avril Haines as intelligence chief

The Senate confirmed Avril Haines as the new director of national intelligence, making her the first nominee approved to serve in President Biden's Cabinet. Haines was approved in a bipartisan 84-10 vote. She will be the first woman to lead America's intelligence community. The confirmation continued a trend of Cabinet confirmations on the first day in office for a new president, although former presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush had more of their nominees immediately approved. Biden's Cabinet might take time to win confirmation, because of possible delays as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) work out a power sharing deal for a Senate in which both parties have 50 seats, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.


Biden administration brings back daily press briefings

The Biden administration on Wednesday held what White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki promised would be daily weekday press briefings, restoring a tradition halted by the Trump administration. Psaki said the briefings were part of an effort to bring back "truth and transparency" and "combat misinformation" by sharing accurate information "even when it is hard to hear." She added that the briefings would include updates on the coronavirus pandemic, on a day when the death toll rose by 4,357 to more than 406,000. While fielding questions from reporters, Psaki said President Biden's first call with a foreign leader will be on Friday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. She said she expected Biden to spend considerable time calling U.S. "partners and allies" because "he feels that's important to rebuild those relationships and address the challenges and threats we're facing in the world."


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