The Obamas, the Bushes, and the Clintons are among those at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday

By Sean Neumann
January 20, 2021 10:53 AM
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As incoming President Joe Biden and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris were set to be sworn into office around noon on Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, they were joined by former presidents, first ladies and some of the government's most powerful leaders — and not just a few celebrities.

The Obamas, the Bushes and the Clintons headlined the slimmed-down guest list for Wednesday's Inauguration Day events, which took place under the unprecedented twin circumstances of a global pandemic and a turbulent transfer of power in the wake of the deadly pro-Trump Capitol riots.

Former First Ladies Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton arrived with their husbands, former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, around 10 a.m. local time.

The former first couples arrived just as some of the most recognizable names in Congress also began to show up. Biden, 78, and his wife, incoming First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, exited a motorcade with Harris, 56, and her husband, Doug Emhoff, the soon-to-be second gentleman.

Among the stars at the ceremonies were Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez, who will perform, as well as Rosario Dawson with her boyfriend, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

Credit: MELINA MARA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Credit: JIM LO SCALZO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Departing President Donald Trump and his family left the White House earlier in the day and headed to his private club in Florida, ending his four-year term in office that had been punctuated by his refusal to acknowledge his defeat.

While Trump, 74, declined to participate in the customary tradition of attending the next president's swearing-in, departing Vice President Mike Pence and other headlining Republicans opted to attend.

Vice President Kamala Harris greets outgoing Vice President Mike Pence
| Credit: Alex Wong/Getty
The Obamas greet Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff
| Credit: Susan Walsh/AP/Shutterstock

Joining Pence, 61, were other one-time Trump loyalists like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Along with them, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders, were spotted by news cameras as they found their seats.

McConnell, who blamed Trump for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 riot earlier this week, attended with wife Elaine Chao, the former transportation secretary who resigned from the Trump administration after the Capitol attack.

The Clintons arrive at the U.S. Capitol
| Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Trump's absence and his former allies' appearances were noteworthy, but the otherwise normalcy of the guest list was most striking. In one subtly defiant scene that would've gone unnoticed at inaugurals before, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a longtime critic of the former president, stood next to McConnell inside the Capitol, where they waited for the Inauguration Day ceremonies to begin.

"This is an effort to show some semblance of a normal inauguration," CNN host Wolf Blitzer remarked, as cameras on the news network showed the bipartisan guests arriving Wednesday morning.

Lady Gaga
| Credit: Win McNamee/Getty
Vice President Kamala Harris takes the oath of office
| Credit: Rob Carr/Getty

The mood was cordial — even celebratory — among the former first families and the incoming couples.

Michelle Obama gave Harris a fist bump when they saw each other on the inaugural stage. Pence and his wife, Second Lady Karen Pence, politely nodded "hello" to the Obamas and the Clintons as they arrived.

A number of celebrities also attended the hallmark event, including Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga, who sang the national anthem. After Harris took the oath of office — becoming the first Black person, first woman, and first person of South Asian descent to be vice president — Lopez sang, "This Land Is Our Land."

Biden and Harris' families were also in attendance, sitting next to the incoming president and vice president on stage on the west front of the U.S. Capitol building.

Biden's son Hunter Biden, his daughter Ashley Biden, and his and Dr. Biden's grandchildren sat alongside them. Harris' husband Doug Emhoff, her niece Meena Harris, and the incoming vice president's step-children sat alongside her and congratulated the vice president after she was sworn in.

Biden took the oath of office shortly before noon local time, officially becoming the next president of the United States.

"This is democracy's day," Biden declared, as he began his first speech as president.

"The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded," the president added, noting the turbulent period between his election and the beginning of his term.

"We learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile, and at this hour, my friend, democracy has prevailed," he said.