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Trump Won't Attend Inauguration; Congress Pushes Ahead With Capitol Ceremony

President Trump, pictured Wednesday, said Friday he will not be attending President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.
Brendan Smialowski
AFP via Getty Images
President Trump, pictured Wednesday, said Friday he will not be attending President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.

Updated at 3:57 p.m. ET

When President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office on Jan. 20, a traditional element that once illustrated a peaceful transfer of power between presidential administrations will be missing: the outgoing president.

In a tweet Friday morning, President Trump said, "To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th."

After weeks of falsely claiming that he had won the November election, and after inciting his supporters to march on the Capitol Wednesday — which turned into an insurrection, Trump had not been expected to attend Biden's swearing-in.

Biden said Friday upon learning of Trump's decision that it was "one of the few things he and I have ever agreed on." He added, "It's a good thing, him not showing up."

Asked how he felt about Vice President Pence attending, Biden said, "He's welcome." Pence has yet to announce his plans.

Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, meanwhile, announced Friday that they will attend the ceremony.

Trump will become the first president in recent history not to attend the swearing in of his successor. Andrew Johnson refused to attend the swearing-in of Ulysses S. Grant in 1869. In 1921, Woodrow Wilson accompanied his successor, Warren G. Harding, on the drive from the White House to the Capitol on Inauguration Day, but Wilson, who had recently suffered a stroke, did not attend the swearing-in itself, saying the stairs were too steep for him to climb.

The congressional committee that plans the ceremony says the swearing-in will take place on the Capitol's West Front as planned, despite the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. The rioters had overrun the platform constructed for the event as well as the rest of the Capitol building.

Rioters invade the inauguration platform of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Roberto Schmidt / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
Rioters invade the inauguration platform of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

In a statement, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies said that Wednesday "was a sad and solemn day for our country. The outrageous attack on the Capitol, however, will not stop us from affirming to Americans — and the world — that our democracy endures. Our committee's bipartisan, bicameral membership remains committed to working with our many partners to execute ceremonies that are safe and showcase our determined democracy."

In the wake of the insurrection, security for the inaugural is expected to be extremely tight. A large fence has already been placed around the perimeter of the Capitol grounds. There will be few guests, and the incoming Biden administration has already urged people not to come to Washington for the event, in large part because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Secret Service, which is the lead agency among those working to secure the event, issued a statement that it has been "working tirelessly" for well over a year "to anticipate and prepare for all possible contingencies at every level to ensure a safe and secure Inauguration Day."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.
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