Outgoing President Donald Trump entered the White House four years ago as a brash billionaire outsider, but he is being ousted by a polar opposite whose deep knowledge of Washington and personal scars will unequivocally set a different tone.
Biden, a 78-year-old former vice president and senator for 37 years, was taking the oath of office at noon on Wednesday – a little after nightfall in East Africa - on the US Capitol's western front, the very spot where pro-Trump rioters clashed with police two weeks ago before storming Congress in a shocking far right mob riot.
While the transition of power occurred much as it has for more than two centuries, this inauguration is unlike any other.
Official Washington has taken on the distinctive look of an armed camp, watched over by some 25,000 National Guard troops, ensuring that no far right groups mar inauguration proceedings in another riot.
And with the pandemic raging, the general public is essentially barred from attending the swearing-in, leading to the unprecedented sight of an empty National Mall on Inauguration Day.
With the death toll soaring past 400,000 cases, Biden on Tuesday led a moving tribute to victims of Covid-19 as he arrived in Washington.
Biden, who has suffered deep personal tragedy and is known for his public displays of emotion, has stressed the need to unite the country after the chaos during the Trump presidency.
"It's hard sometimes to remember, but that's how we heal. It's important to do that as a nation," Biden said in sombre remarks at the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Inauguration eve is normally a time of massive crowds gathering in the capital, but Biden, joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, was on deserted ground at the reflecting pool.
On the Mall's grassy expanse, some 200,000 flags have been planted to represent the absent crowds at the inauguration.
Trump, who has not appeared in public for a week, broke days of silence with a pre-recorded farewell video address on Tuesday.
For the first time, he asked Americans to "pray" for the success of the incoming administration – signaling a change of tone after spending months persuading his Republican followers that the Democrats cheated their way to election victory.
Trump, whose efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and console its victims have been widely criticized, had already decided against attending the inauguration.
He has also refused to congratulate Biden - who first ran for president in 1987 - on his win, and did not invite him for the customary cup of tea in the Oval Office.
In one of his last acts before flying to Florida on Wednesday morning, Trump issued scores of pardons to people convicted of crimes or facing charges, including several key allies.
Influential former Trump aide Steve Bannon -- charged with defrauding people over funds raised to build the Mexico border wall, a flagship Trump policy -- was among 73 people on a list released by the White House...read more on https://epaper.ippmedia.com