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Today’s Headlines: The transfer of power

Douglas Emhoff, Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and Joe Biden stand at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
Douglas Emhoff, left, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden look down the National Mall as lamps are lit to honor victims of the COVID-19 pandemic at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on Tuesday.
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

At a presidential inauguration like no other, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will take the oath of office in Washington.

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The Transfer of Power

Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States today and Kamala Harris will become the first vice president who is Black, South Asian, female and the daughter of immigrants. But the inaugural proceedings in Washington will be taking place under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing threat of political violence.

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There won’t be the usual 200,000 guests watching on grandstands at the Capitol. Instead, 12-foot fences topped with razor wire encircle Capitol grounds being protected by 25,000 National Guard troops in case of an attack like the one two weeks ago. Only about 1,000 members of Congress, governors and their guests — all tested for the coronavirus in the days before being admitted — will be present. (The inauguration ceremonies are slated to begin at 9 a.m. Pacific.; here’s how to watch.)

Less than 24 hours before the events were slated to begin, the Defense Department announced it had removed 12 National Guard troops from inauguration duty, two of them for suspected links to right-wing anti-government groups, according to media reports.

And after four years of supporting or silently enduring President Trump, Sen. Mitch McConnell — on his last day as majority leader, and on Trump’s last full day in power — blamed him for inciting the mob that carried out the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Efforts to track down and arrest people who participated in the storming of the U.S. Capitol have continued, along with the news that federal prosecutors had filed charges against an alleged organizer in the anti-government militia collective known as the Oath Keepers.

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Meanwhile, Trump gave a nearly 20-minute farewell speech in which he didn’t mention Biden by name but acknowledged that a new administration would take power at noon. Shirking tradition, Trump plans to skip the inauguration and instead head to Florida this morning.

Biden’s First Moves

Biden will move swiftly to reverse some of Trump’s most divisive and far-reaching actions — including abandoning the Paris climate agreement and ordering the deportation of so-called Dreamers — by issuing a bundle of executive orders and other directives just after his inauguration.

The expansive actions, including 15 executive orders, also will immediately reenter the United States into the World Health Organization, overhaul Trump’s restrictionist immigration policy and cancel his approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

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The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which Trump tried to open to drilling, will be closed again, and national monuments in the West where he fostered development and resource extraction will once again be given the highest levels of federal protection. The orders will scrap a Trump plan to exclude immigrants who are in the country illegally from being counted in the decennial U.S. census and rescind Trump policies that left marginalized communities more exposed to industrial pollution.

In addition, plans that Biden recently outlined for confronting the pandemic will be reflected in some of the orders. They will require masks and distancing in all federal buildings and on federal lands, in an effort to push state and local leaders to impose their own such mandates nationwide. On Tuesday, Biden attended a memorial in Washington to honor the 400,000 American lives lost to COVID-19.

The Trump Legacy

Trump’s four years in office have had a huge effect on American life — visible in the sharp increase in distrust of the nation’s democratic institutions and the rise of radical, white nationalist groups.

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Trump’s administration reopened large swaths of the country to mining and drilling, and sharply reduced environmental, safety and health regulations. The tax cut he signed into law, which tilted heavily toward upper-income Americans, helped widen the nation’s income inequality. And the 226 federal judges he appointed, including 54 to the federal courts of appeals and three to the Supreme Court, will push the judiciary in a conservative direction for years.

But his larger ambitions to uproot key domestic policies of President Obama largely failed. More than 25 million Americans remain covered by the Affordable Care Act, which Trump tried to repeal; some 650,000 immigrants get the protections from deportation that he tried to rescind; and employment continues to shrink in the coal industry, which he promised to revive.

Still, tens of millions of Trump voters have remained loyal, even after Trump incited the insurrection at the Capitol that left five people dead. In dozens of interviews across the country, supporters spoke of Trump in reverential terms as the only president in memory who stood for working people rather than the elite.

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— With hours left in office, Trump pardoned several dozen individuals including former campaign and White House advisor Stephen K. Bannon, who was facing federal fraud and money laundering charges in an alleged scheme to defraud supporters of the president’s border wall.

Janet Yellen, Biden’s choice as Treasury secretary, said that the incoming administration would focus on winning quick passage of its $1.9-trillion pandemic relief plan.

— After a largely cordial confirmation hearing for Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s nominee for secretary of Homeland Security, Sen. Josh Hawley said he was putting a hold on a procedure that would have bypassed full committee consideration of the nomination.

— Biden’s pick for secretary of State, Antony Blinken, told a Senate panel that he plans to “revitalize American diplomacy” after four years of tumultuous foreign policy.

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— How much real impact will Kamala Harris have on the Biden administration? Times staff writer Noah Bierman will write about this and all other aspects of her career in a new biweekly edition of our Essential Politics newsletter. Read the first edition here before you sign up.

At a COVID-19 Crossroads

California passed 3 million total coronavirus cases Tuesday. The mind-boggling milestone was confirmed through a Times survey of county and local health departments, and demonstrates just how widely the coronavirus has spread. In addition, officials are worried about new and potentially more contagious variants of the coronavirus that have been detected in California and beyond.

At the same time, there’s been some optimism that the outbreak might finally be leveling off, even amid the new concerns. Cases continued to flatten across California — including in hard-hit Los Angeles County — after two months of record-setting surges. COVID-19 hospitalizations have also flattened and started to decline slightly.

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After a slow start, California is also beginning to ramp up distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, which officials see as the best hope of bending the curve and bringing back the battered economy. But lack of doses remains a deep concern.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Severe limits in the supply of COVID-19 vaccine will restrict how many older residents of Los Angeles County get vaccinated in the coming days and weeks, public health officials said. The county opened five large-scale vaccination sites, and residents ages 65 or older can begin scheduling appointments, but slots were limited to about 50,000 this week, largely because of a shortage of doses.

San Francisco’s public health department will run out of COVID-19 vaccine Thursday because the city’s allocation dropped substantially from a week ago and doses that had to be discarded were not replaced, city officials said.

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— Gov. Gavin Newsom’s finance department may have shortchanged some California communities in distributing federal COVID-19 relief funds, according to a state audit.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this day in 2009, Joe Biden was sworn in as vice president alongside President Obama.

The event was covered heavily by The Times and, though the focus was on Obama, Biden was a presence too. The festivities included balls and performances, with massive crowds of people.

But it was not without controversy, either. The Times reported that several groups of protesters had gathered around Washington, some against Obama and others angry with outgoing President Bush. Some Republican officials also declined to attend the ceremonies and left town — one group rented a house in Palm Springs with a heated swimming pool, a hot tub and an outdoor fire pit. There were even rumors of tensions on the eve of the ceremony after the Bidens appeared on “Oprah.”

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Of course, the 2020 inauguration will look significantly different, between security concerns and the coronavirus.

Vice President Joe Biden holds up his hand and takes the oath of office while Jill Biden holds a Bible
Joe Biden is sworn in as vice president on Jan. 20, 2009. Jill Biden holds the Bible in the ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA

Southern California Edison shut off power to more than 78,500 customers on Tuesday, with an additional 250,000 at risk of losing their electricity as the utility company tried to prevent strong Santa Ana winds from sparking wildfires. To the north, strong winds contributed to fires in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, and PG&E cut power to thousands.

— Every college has its brag sheet. But the University of California has a 123-page report in exhaustive detail, touting jobs created, research performed, start-up businesses launched, tax dollars generated and students served.

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— An LAPD station just outside Koreatown was slated for closure, until Korean American leaders who remembered the 1992 L.A. unrest rallied to save it. It’s a reminder of how differently some communities see the police, even amid calls to defund the police and as city budget woes loom.

— An Orange County man who was reportedly afraid to fly because of the pandemic is facing criminal charges after officials found he had been living in Chicago O’Hare Airport for three months.

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NATION-WORLD

— On his way out the door, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo has hit China with new sanctions, declaring that China’s policies on Muslims and ethnic minorities in western Xinjiang province constitute a “genocide.”

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— Sen. Richard Burr said that the Justice Department has told him it will not prosecute him over stock sales made during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iran’s supreme leader banned U.S. and other Western-made COVID-19 vaccines earlier this month. But as his country’s death toll nears 60,000 and its total caseload exceeds 1.3 million, residents say they want vaccines and treatment, not politics.

— Pencils down for the SAT subject tests and optional essay. In another sea change to standardized testing, the College Board is scrapping them — and it’s developing a “more flexible SAT” that will be delivered digitally.

— The Museum of London has added the “Baby Trump” protest balloon — which depicts Trump as a screaming orange-colored infant — to its collection as an artifact from the protests that greeted him when he visited the city in 2018.

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Here are the celebrities participating in Biden’s Hollywood-heavy inauguration.

Netflix broke its record for added subscribers in 2020, gaining 37 million and for the first time surpassing 200 million worldwide — but rivals such as Disney+ are gaining ground.

— So long, CBS All Access. Hello, Paramount+. ViacomCBS’ rebranding effort comes as the New York media giant faces an increasingly competitive landscape of streaming services.

— HBO Max’s heist dramedy “Locked Down” was conceived and shot during the pandemic. Here’s how they made it happen.

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BUSINESS

— Iconic magazines Ebony and Jet are aiming for a comeback. Leading the effort is Michele Ghee, who’s taking over as chief executive after the publications were purchased out of bankruptcy by former NBA player Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman and his family.

Parler, the social network popular with the alt-right and conspiracy theorists, has reappeared with the help of a Russian-owned web security service.

— Although Trump utterly failed to cut prescription drug prices, Biden could do better — and a House bill could offer him a road map, columnist Michael Hiltzik writes.

SPORTS

— Dodgers Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton, whose uniform number was the last one retired by the team, has died at 75.

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— The pandemic has changed almost all aspects of UCLA gymnastics’ training regimen as the team nears its season opener Saturday — but it also reinforced the Bruins’ commitment to training with joy and gratitude.

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OPINION

— Elected officials in L.A. and other California cities want to require supplemental “hero pay” for some essential workers, but not all, The Times’ editorial board writes. Why should supermarket cashiers qualify while Amazon warehouse and meatpacking plant workers don’t?

— We need a Jan. 6 Commission to investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol, examine security failures, analyze whether it could portend other attacks to come and make recommendations to prevent them, writes Brian Michael Jenkins, a terrorism researcher with Rand Corp.

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WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

Ta-Nehisi Coates asks: Now is America ready to talk about how Trump’s presidency happened? (The Atlantic)

— When the plastic surgeon is a social media influencer, who owns the story of what happens under the knife? (Wired)

ONLY IN L.A.

President Trump was removed from Twitter, Facebook and even the gaming platform Twitch. Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University revoked an honorary degree in the wake of the insurgency at the Capitol. Now, Trump faces a new indignity: potential expulsion from SAG-AFTRA, Hollywood’s biggest union.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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