WASHINGTON (AP) — A former congressman who pocketed millions of dollars in bribes from defense contractors. A Republican fundraiser who paid handsome sums to illicitly lobby a presidential administration. An influential voice in conservative circles accused of duping donors who supported a border wall.Donald Trump’s final batch of more than 140 pardons and sentence commutations, issued in his last hours as president, benefited an ignominious list of defendants whose swindles, frauds and public corruption made them unlikely candidates for executive clemency. The recipients included people who not only abused their own positions of power but who also leveraged well-placed connections to pursue pardons from a president willing to use his authority to bless patrons and friends.“It wasn’t about draining the swamp. It was the swamp,” said Sanjay Bhandari, a former Justice Department prosecutor who in 2005 secured a guilty plea from Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the former California congressman who was pardoned early Wednesday despite having accepted more than $2.4 million in homes, yachts and other bribes in exchange for government contracts.The White House cited his post-prison volunteer work, military career and the support he received from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally. But that support was troubling to Bhandari, who said it appeared that Cunningham and others in a “rogue’s gallery” of recipients benefited more from their proximity to power than from the actual merit of their cases.“On a personal level, it’s hard to hold any personal animosity or venom toward the individual,” Bhandari said. But, “as a citizen looking at the process and looking at who has been chosen for a pardon and on what grounds — that’s what’s really disturbing.”To be sure, presidents have broad discretion in their use of the pardon power and many have exercised it, albeit sparingly, on defendants to whom they have personal or political ties. George H.W. Bush pardoned Reagan administration officials implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal, and Bill Clinton pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich, whose ex-wife was a substantial donor.And many of the names on Trump’s last list were conventional and non-controversial selections, including relatively anonymous drug offenders seen as having rehabilitated themselves during long stays in prison. Those types of defendants were also pardoned en masse by previous administrations. Even so, “Trump has had a much higher percentage of his pardons be the sort of well-connected, personally connected-to-him kind of folks,” said Michigan State University law professor Brian Kalt, an expert on pardons.There were also notable omissions from the clemency list, not least Trump himself.Despite speculation that the president might pardon himself in the face of potential legal jeopardy once he leaves office, and even though he had claimed that he had the absolute power to give himself one, Trump apparently opted not to do so. He also did not pardon any of his children or his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who has faced an investigation in New York, though the status of that probe is unclear.Other allies, though, got a boost.For instance, joining Cunningham on the pardon list was Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist. He was pulled from a yacht off the Connecticut coast in August and brought to Manhattan to face charges that he duped thousands of donors who believed their money would be used to fulfill Trump’s chief campaign promise to build a wall along the southern border.Instead, he allegedly diverted over a million dollars, paying a salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself. His co-defendants were not pardoned.The pardon was notable not only because Bannon has steadfastly asserted his innocence — the Justice Department pardon process values acceptance of responsibility — but because the criminal prosecution was still in its early stages. The pardon nullified the case while the trial was still months away, eliminating the prospect for any punishment for Bannon.Another recipient was Elliott Broidy, a major Trump fundraiser and former Republican National Committee deputy finance chairman. Prosecutors said Broidy collected millions of dollars in a back-channel but ultimately unsuccessful lobbying scheme aimed at getting the Trump administration to drop an investigation into embezzlement from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund and to extradite a Chinese dissident wanted by the government in Beijing.He pleaded guilty last fall to acting as an unregistered lobbyist and was awaiting sentencing.William “Billy” Walters, a prominent Las Vegas professional gambler who prosecutors said was worth millions and who was convicted in an insider trading case linked to pro golfer Phil Mickelson, had his sentence commuted. So did former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who has served more than seven years of a 28-year sentence for corruption crimes that involved bags of cash from city contractors and kickbacks hidden in the bra of his political fundraiser.In the final minutes of his term, Trump pardoned Al Pirro, the ex-husband of Fox News Channel host Jeanine Pirro, in a tax evasion case.Cunningham’s case was especially eye-popping, involving $2.4 million in cash, trips and other gifts from defense contractors in exchange for government contracts. President George W. Bush rebuked him for the “outrageous" conduct, though that didn’t stop Cunningham from seeking clemency from Bush before he left office.“It’s not often that the president of the United States comments on an ongoing case and this had that level of corruption, where even the highest officials in the land looked at this and said, ’This is deeply disturbing,” Bhandari said.He added: “When you have something that is that disturbing, I think you need to have something that is really compelling to offset it, particularly given that there are thousands upon thousands of people who have very compelling circumstances who apply for pardons as part of the normal process who are not granted pardons with far more compelling facts” than Cunningham’s case.____Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden declared Wednesday that truth and democracy are under attack in America and he pledged to usher the post-truth era out of U.S. politics. Biden didn’t mention former President Donald Trump by name, but Biden's inaugural remarks were a clear rebuke of his predecessor, who persuaded millions of Americans to believe in his reality, one sewn with a fabric of falsehoods about issues such as coronavirus and election fraud.“Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson,” Biden said about Trump's postelection claims of massive voter fraud that culminated in a deadly riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. His defense of the truth could be a tough message to push when polls show about one-third of Americans remain skeptical about the outcome of the election and misinformation is a troubling problem.“There is truth and there are lies — lies told for power and for profit," Biden said. "Each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens, as Americans and especially as leaders ... to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”Biden's address was filled with vows to shore up the government's credibility and bolster Americans' confidence in their democracy. He said the word “truth” four times and warned of the dangers of hewing to alternative sets of facts.“We must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured,” Biden said.Biden, though, is inheriting a deeply divided nation. Several polls before the inauguration showed some Americans – about one-third – were skeptical about the outcome of the election. In particular, roughly two-thirds of Republicans had doubts about Biden’s victory. In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 69% of Republicans said Biden did not legitimately win the presidential election.In October, an Associated Press-NORC/USAFacts poll showed that few Americans thought the campaign messages from either presidential candidate were always or often based on factual information. For Trump, about half said the president’s campaign messages were rarely or never based in fact, and about 4 in 10 said that about Biden’s campaign messages. That poll also found 83% of Americans saying the spread of misinformation about the government is a major problem.Truth was also part of the poem Amanda Gorman of Los Angeles read at the inauguration ceremony. Her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” says: “While democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith, we trust.”
Here's what's happening Wednesday with the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:THREE THINGS TO KNOW TODAY— A number of states are reporting they are running out of vaccine, and tens of thousands of people who managed to get appointments for a first dose are seeing them canceled. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said about half of the 31 million doses distributed to the states by the federal government have been administered so far. Only about 2 million people have received the two doses needed for maximum protection against the virus.— President Joe Biden is signing a series of executive actions that reverse his predecessor’s orders on immigration, climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. Biden is requiring the use of masks and social distancing in all federal buildings, on federal lands and by federal employees and contractors. Biden also is directing the government to rejoin the World Health Organization.— The incoming director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is arriving at an agency that has been relegated to the sidelines during the pandemic. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, 51, an infectious-diseases specialist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, arrives at the CDC this week as the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 400,000 and the nation’s largest vaccination campaign in history encounters confusion and delays.THE NUMBERS: The U.S. is averaging about 201,000 new cases and about 3,000 deaths each day. The nation’s death toll since the start of the pandemic now stands at about 403,000.QUOTABLE: “It’s so incredibly, unimaginably sad that so many people have died that could have been avoided." — Cliff Daniels, chief strategy officer for Methodist Hospital of Southern California, near Los Angeles, after the U.S. death toll topped 400,000.ICYMI: California officials are pinning their hopes on President Joe Biden as they struggle to obtain coronavirus vaccines and to curb a surge in infections that has packed hospitals and morgues. San Francisco’s public health department says it’s likely to run out of vaccine on Thursday. Los Angeles County is starting to inoculate people age 65 and older despite the scarcity.ON THE HORIZON: Biden has taken office as the 46th president of the U.S. His ambitious first 100-day plan includes a push to speed up the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to Americans and to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package.___Find AP’s full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
TORONTO (AP) — The Canadian company behind the Keystone XL oil pipeline said Wednesday it has suspended work on the pipeline in in anticipation of incoming U.S. President Joe Biden revoking its permit.Biden’s Day One plans included moving to revoke a presidential permit for the pipeline.The 1,700-mile (2,735-kilometer) pipeline would carry roughly 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. “As a result of the expected revocation of the Presidential Permit, advancement of the project will be suspended,” the Calgary, Alberta-based company said in a statement. First proposed in 2008, the pipeline has become emblematic of the tensions between economic development and curbing the fossil fuel emissions that are causing climate change. The Obama administration rejected it, but President Donald Trump revived it and has been a strong supporter. Construction already started. Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, said Canada needs to move on now that Biden has made a decision. “Of course we’re disappointed. We worked hard over the past number of months trying to make the case for Keystone XL," Hillman told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “He had made a commitment during his campaign and he lived up to that commitment. I think we have to accept that and move forward.”Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised Keystone XL as a top priority when he spoke with Biden in a phone call in November. The project is meant to expand critical oil exports for Canada, which has the third-largest oil reserves in the world. Jason Kenney, premier of the oil-rich province of Alberta, said late Tuesday he urged Trudeau to tell Biden that “rescinding the Keystone XL border crossing permit would damage the Canada-US bilateral relationship.”Trudeau and Biden are politically aligned and there are expectations for a return to normal relations after four years of Trump, but the pipeline is an early irritant as Biden has long said he would cancel it. Trudeau has tried to balance the oil industry’s desire for more pipelines with environmentalists’ concerns. He canceled one major pipeline to the Pacific coast from oil-rich Alberta, but approved another and instituted a national carbon tax.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Lawmakers in Greece Wednesday overwhelmingly approved legislation to extend the country's territorial waters along its western coastline from six to 12 nautical miles. In the 284-0 vote, representatives of four opposition parties backed the center-right government, while members of the Greek Communist Party abstained. Although the move does not directly affect an ongoing maritime boundary dispute with Turkey to the east, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament that Greece was adopting a more assertive foreign policy. “It's a clear message to those who are trying to deprive our country of this right,” Mitsotakis said.Greece’s western coastline faces Italy and borders Albania at its northern tip. But the expansion is aimed at underscoring the country’s right to implement the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which set the 12-mile limit in 1982.Greece and Turkey, neighbors and NATO allies, are at odds over sea boundaries and mineral rights in the Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean in a dispute that caused a tense military standoff last year. Under pressure from western allies, Turkey and Greece will resume talks aimed at reducing tensions on Jan. 25, restarting a process that was suspended five years ago.Turkey says an extension of Greece’s territorial waters eastward would be considered an act of war, arguing that Greek islands would effectively block its access to the Aegean. The longstanding dispute between the two countries has been fueled by the discovery of large offshore gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean in recent years. Ankara noted that the legislation passed Wednesday does not affect the Aegean, but warned that there was no change to its position regarding the extension of territorial waters there.“Our country has vital rights and interests in the semi-enclosed Aegean Sea, which is dominated by special geographical conditions,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a written statement.”Our position that the territorial waters of this sea cannot be expanded unilaterally in a way that restricts the freedom of navigation and access to the open seas of our country and of third countries, is known to all," he added. "There is no change to our position.”Greece has signed recent agreements with Italy and Egypt for the delineation of maritime exploration rights and is in talks with Albania to take a maritime boundary dispute to an international court.
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Leaders across the globe welcomed the arrival of U.S. President Joe Biden and the end of the often confrontational presidency of Donald Trump, noting the world’s most pressing problems, including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, require multilateral cooperation, an approach Trump ridiculed.Many expressed hope Wednesday that Biden would right the world’s largest democracy two weeks after they watched rioters storm the Capitol, shaking the faith of those fighting for democracy in their own countries. Governments targeted and sanctioned under Trump embraced the chance for a fresh start with Biden, while some heads of state who lauded Trump’s blend of nationalism and populism were more restrained in their expectations for the Biden administration — and in some cases spoke nostalgically of the Trump years.But a chance to repair frayed alliances and work together to address problems extending beyond any one country’s borders carried the day.Biden “understands the value and the importance of multilateralism. He understands the importance of cooperation among nations,” said former Colombian president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos, who left office in 2018. “As a matter of fact, if we don’t cooperate – all nations – to fight climate change, then we will all perish. It’s as simple as that,” Santos said.French President Emmanuel Macron also noted the urgency of addressing the perils the world faces from climate change after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, a move Biden was to reverse in the first hours of his presidency. With Biden, “we will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet," he wrote on Twitter. “Welcome back to the Paris Agreement!” Elsewhere in Europe, close U.S. allies finally saw a chance to come in out of the cold after strained security and economic relationships with the Trump administration.“This new dawn in America is the moment we’ve been awaiting for so long,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, hailing Biden’s arrival as “resounding proof that, once again after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”European Council President Charles Michel said that trans-Atlantic relations have “greatly suffered in the last four years. In these years, the world has grown more complex, less stable and less predictable.”“We have our differences and they will not magically disappear. America seems to have changed, and how it’s perceived in Europe and the rest of the world has also changed,” added Michel, whose open criticism of the Trump era contrasted with the silence that mostly reigned in Europe while the Republican leader was in the White House.In Germany, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued a video statement, calling Biden's inauguration a “good day for democracy.”“Despite the attempts to tear at America’s institutional fabric, election workers and governors, the judiciary and Congress have proven strong,” he said. With Biden and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris, Steinmeier said the U.S. would again be a “vital partner” to tackle issues like the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, security issues including arms control and disarmament, and multiple conflicts.Pope Francis urged Biden to help foster reconciliation in the U.S. and build up a society “marked by authentic justice and freedom” and looking out especially for the poor.The “grave crises” facing all of humanity call for farsighted responses, Francis said.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who formed close ties with Trump, noted a “warm personal friendship” with Biden. “I look forward to working with you to further strengthen the U.S.-Israel alliance, to continue expanding peace between Israel and the Arab world and to confront common challenges, chief among them the threat posed by Iran,” Netanyahu said.Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose country has had a tumultuous relationship with Washington, having been criticized for aiding the Afghan Taliban, said in a tweet he looked forward to building a stronger partnership through trade, economic engagement and countering climate change.In Latin America, Biden faces immediate challenges on immigration and the leaders of the two most populous countries — Brazil and Mexico — were chummy with Trump. The Trump administration also took a hard line against governments in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, expanding painful sanctions.In Venezuela, the government of President Nicolás Maduro urged a renewed dialogue with the Biden administration, while hoping the incoming president abandons the avalanche of damaging sanctions Trump imposed to attempt a regime change. Common Venezuelans, however, like retired accountant Jesús Sánchez, 79, said he was disappointed to see Trump leave power. Trump backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó, giving Venezuelans like him hope that Maduro’s days in power were numbered.An estimated 5 million Venezuelans have migrated out of the South American nation in recent years, fleeing shortages of food, medicine and basic services such as running water and gasoline, despite sitting atop the world’s largest crude reserves.Carlos Vecchio, Guaido’s envoy in Washington who the U.S. recognizes as Venezuela’s ambassador, tweeted photos of himself standing in front of the inauguration ceremony Wednesday. The invitation to attend was touted by Venezuela’s opposition as evidence the Biden administration will continue its strong support and resist entreaties by Maduro to engage in dialogue that the U.S. has strenuously rejected until now.Cuba’s leaders perhaps have a more realistic hope for improved relations. After all, Biden was in the White House for the historic thaw in relations in 2014. Various officials said they were willing to reopen a dialogue with Washington if there was respect for Cuba’s sovereignty.President Miguel Díaz-Canel railed against Trump via Twitter, citing “more than 200 measures that tightened the financial, commercial and economic blockade, the expression of a despicable and inhuman policy.”In Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who cultivated an unexpectedly friendly relationship with Trump and was one of the last world leaders to recognize Biden’s victory, read from a letter he sent to Biden in 2012, calling for a reorienting of the bilateral relationship away from security and military aid and toward development.He urged Biden to implement immigration reform, and added: “We need to maintain a very good relationship with the United States government and I don’t have any doubt that it’s going to be that way.”__Cook reported from Brussels. AP writers Nicole Winfield in Vatican City, Kathy Gannon in Islamabad, Laurie Kellman in Jerusalem, Alex Sanz in Atlanta, David Rising in Berlin, Joshua Goodman in Miami, Andrea Rodriguez in Havana, Scott Smith in Caracas, Venezuela, Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.
CHICAGO (AP) — The brother of Chicago Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher has been pardoned of federal charges that he recruited for a multimillion-dollar illegal offshore gambling ring,Casey Urlacher, the mayor of the tiny Chicago suburb of Mettawa, was among those pardoned in the final hours of President Donald Trump’s term as part of a flurry of clemency action that benefited more than 140 people.Casey Urlacher, 41, was charged last February and pleaded not guilty the next month. He also played football but with limited success, having played at Lake Forest College and in the Arena Football League before becoming mayor of the village of fewer than 550 people in 2013.Brian Urlacher has supported Trump, contributing to Trump's campaign shortly after his brother was indicted and visiting the White House and presenting the president with a No. 54 Chicago Bears jersey days after his brother pleaded not guilty.In a statement announcing the pardon early Wednesday, the White House said that Casey Urlacher “has been committed to public service and has consistently given back to his community,” adding that his mayoral position is unpaid and that he "is a devoted husband to his wife and a loving father to his 17-month old daughter.”
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — President Joe Biden said Wednesday he plans to review the Trump administration's downsizing of two sprawling national monuments in the American Southwest, including one on lands considered sacred to Native Americans who joined environmental groups in suing when the boundaries were redrawn in 2017. The new Democratic president also plans to ask the Department of the Interior to reassess a rule change that allowed commercial fishing at a marine conservation area off the New England coast. The move was heralded by fishing groups and decried by environmentalists. The moves are part of Biden's expansive plan to tackle climate change and reverse the Trump administration's “harmful policies,” according to fact sheet issued by the administration on Biden's inauguration day. Biden vowed to also use executive orders to put a temporary moratorium on new oil and gas leasing in what had been virgin Arctic wilderness, direct federal agencies to start looking at tougher mileage standards and other emission limits again, and revoke Trump’s approval for the Keystone XL oil and gas pipeline.The land monuments Biden will reassess are the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments in southern Utah. President Bill Clinton created Grand Staircase in 1996, and President Barack Obama created Bears Ears in 2016. The cuts made by Trump paved the way for potential coal mining and oil and gas drilling on lands that used to be off limits, though activity was limited because of market dynamics. The marine monument is called the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, the first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean and one of just five marine monuments nationwide. President Obama issued the order establishing the conservation area in 2016.Trump acted in December 2017 to shrink the Utah monuments on the recommendations of then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who was tasked with reviewing 27 national monuments around the country. The monument review was based on arguments from Trump and others that a law signed by President Theodore Roosevelt allowing presidents to declare monuments had been improperly used to protect wide expanses of lands instead of places with particular historical or archaeological value.Trump’s decision to downsize Bears Ears by 85% and shrink Grand Staircase-Escalante Nby nearly half earned him applause from Utah’s Republican leaders, who considered the monuments an example of federal government overreach.Environmental, tribal, paleontological and outdoor recreation organizations have pending lawsuits to restore the full sizes of the monuments, arguing presidents don’t have the legal authority to undo or change monuments created by predecessors.Pat Gonzales-Rogers, executive director of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, said the group has told the Biden transition team the monument should first restored to the size Obama created and later to a larger size tribes originally requested.The lands are sacred to tribes in the coalition: Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe, he said. The area includes thousands of archaeological sites on red rock lands including cliff dwellings. The Bears Ears buttes that overlook a grassy valley are particularly sacred. “The Bears Ears is a church and the place of worship for many of our tribes," Gonzales-Rogers said. "It should be viewed with the same type of gravitas and platform that you would view the Cathedral of Notre Dame.” Bruce Adams, who stood next to Trump cheering at the Utah Capitol in 2017 when he signed the declaration shrinking the monument, said Wednesday he thinks it’s a foregone conclusion Biden will restore Bears Ears to the size Obama created, if not make it larger. Adams is county commissioner in the area where the monument is located and said the impact on the county of having to clean up trash and rescue unprepared visitors outweighs any benefit from people spending money at local hotels and restaurants. “I don't think it's fair for the federal government to come in and do a huge land grab,” Adams said. “I just wish they would attach some dollars so the county can deal with the impact.” The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts conservation area comprises about 5,000 square miles east of New England. It contains vulnerable species of marine life such as right whales and fragile deep sea corals. The monument was the first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean. Trump issued an executive order in June 2020 that reopened the monument to commercial fishing. He said at the time that Obama’s move to ban fishing in the area was “deeply unfair to Maine lobstermen,” although lobster fishermen from the state don’t fish in the area.Kristan Porter, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, said Wednesday that fishermen opposed Obama’s creation of the monument because of the lack of feedback from the industry.“It was closed without fishery input, and then it was open, and I suppose it’s going to be closed again without fishery input,” Porter said.____Whittle reported from Portland, Maine.
Joe Biden took the oath of office to become the 46th president of the United States, declaring that “democracy has prevailed.”He takes the helm of a deeply divided nation and inherits a confluence of crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors. But there were comforting signs of tradition in the hallowed American rite that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol, which was battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks ago.The day began with a reach across the aisle after four years of bitter partisan battles under Trump. At Biden’s invitation, congressional leaders from both parties bowed their heads in prayer in a socially distanced church service just a few blocks from the White House.Biden was sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Harris was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court's first Latina member. Vice President Mike Pence, standing in for Trump, sat nearby as Lady Gaga, holding a gold microphone, sang the national anthem accompanied by the U.S. Marine Corps band.
President Joe Biden's inaugural address Wednesday, as provided by CQ Transcripts:Chief Justice Roberts, Vice President Harris.Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice President Pence, and my distinguished guests, my fellow Americans, this is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve. Through a Crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge.Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause. The cause of democracy. The people, the will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.So now, on this hallowed ground, where just a few days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.As we look ahead in our uniquely American way, restless, bold, optimistic and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be. I thank my predecessors of both parties for their presence here today. I thank them from the bottom of my heart and I know--And I know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation, as does President Carter who I spoke with last night who cannot be with us today but whom we salute for his lifetime of service.I’ve just taken a sacred oath each of those patriots have taken. The oath first sworn by George Washington. But the American story depends not in any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us. On we, the people who seek a more perfect union. This is a great nation. We are good people. And over the centuries, through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we’ve come so far, but we still have far to go.We’ll press forward with speed and urgency for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities. Much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain.Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we are in now. Once in a century virus that silently stalks the country has taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II.Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.The cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. And now a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy. Unity. Unity.In another January, on New Year’s Day in 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When he put pen to paper, the president said, and quote, “If my name ever goes down into history, it will be for this act and my whole soul is in it."My whole soul is in it.Today on this January day, my whole soul is in this. Bringing America together. Uniting our people. Uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause.Uniting to fight the foes we face: aanger, resentment, and hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness and hopelessness.With unity, we can do great things, important things. We can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus. We can reward--reward work and rebuild the middle class and make healthcare secure for all. We can deliver racial justice, and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world.I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep, and they are real, but I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial, and victory is never assured.Through Civil War, the Great Depression, world war, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our better angels have always prevailed. In each of these moments, enough of us, enough of us have come together to carry all of us forward, and we can do that now.History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity. We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury, no progress, only exhausting outrage; no nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge and unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America.If we do that, I guarantee you we will not fail. We have never ever ever ever failed in America when we have acted together, and so today at this time in this place, let’s start off fresh all of us. Let’s begin to listen to one another again, hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war, and we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this. America has to be better than this, and I believe America is so much better than this. Just look around here we stand in the shadow of the Capitol dome as was mentioned earlier completed amid the Civil War when the Union itself was literally hanging in the balance.Yet we endured, we prevailed. Here we stand, looking out on the great mall where Dr. King spoke of his dream. Here we stand where 108 years ago, at another inaugural, thousands of protesters tried to block brave women marching for the right to vote, and today we mark the swearing-in of the first woman in American history elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris.Don’t tell me things can’t change. Here we stand across the Potomac from Arlington Cemetery where heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion rest in eternal peace, and here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen; it will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.To all of those who supported our campaign, I am humbled by the faith you have placed in us. To all of those who did not support us, let me say this hear me out as we move forward, take a measure of me and my heart. If you still disagree, so be it, that’s democracy, that’s America. The right to dissent peaceably within the guardrails of our Republic is perhaps this nation’s greatest strength. Yet hear me clearly disagreement must not lead to disunion, and I pledge this to you I will be a president for all Americans, all Americans.And I promise you I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.Many centuries ago, St. Augustine, a saint in my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we as Americans love that define us as Americans? I think we know. Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor, and yes, the truth.In recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and for profit, and each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens, as Americans and especially as leaders, leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation, to defend the truth and defeat the lies.Look, I understand that many of my fellow Americans view the future with fear and trepidation. I understand they worry about their jobs. I understand like my dad they lay at bed staring at the night — staring at the ceiling wondering can I keep my healthcare, can I pay my mortgage? Thinking about their families, about what comes next. I promise you I get it, but the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like — look like you or worship the way you do or don’t get their news from the same source as you do.We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban or rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts if we show a little tolerance and humility and if we are willing to stand in the other person’s shoes as my mom would say just for a moment stand in their shoes because here’s the thing about life, there’s no accounting for what fate will deal you.Some days when you need a hand, there are other days when we are called to lend a hand. That is how it has to be, and that is what we do for one another, and if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future, and we can still disagree.My fellow Americans in the work ahead of us, we are going to need each other. We need all of our strength to preserve--to persevere through this dark winter. We are entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus. We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation, one nation.And I promise you that this as the Bible said weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning. We will get through this together, together.Look, folks, all of my colleagues I have served with in the House and the Senate up here, we all understand the world is watching, watching all of us today, so here is my message to those beyond our borders. America has been tested and we’ve come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.And we’ll lead not merely by the example of our power, by the power of our example.We’ll be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.Look, you all know we’ve been through so much in this nation. And in my first act as president, I’d like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer, remember all those who we lost this past year to the pandemic, those 400,000 fellow Americans, moms, dads, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.We will honor them by becoming the people in the nation we know we can and should be. So, I ask you let’s say a silent prayer for those who’ve lost their lives and those left behind and for our country.Amen.Folks, this is a time of testing. We face an attack on our democracy and on truth, a raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America’s role in the world. Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways, but the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with a — one of the gravest responsibilities we had.Now we’re going to be tested. Are we going to step up, all of us? It’s time for boldness for there is so much to do. And this is certain. I promise you we will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era.We will rise to the occasion is the question. Will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world to our children?I believe we must. I’m sure you do as well. I believe we will. And when we do, we’ll write the next great chapter in the history of the United States of America, the American story, a story that might sound something like a song that means a lot to me. It’s called American Anthem. There’s one verse that stands out at least for me, and it goes like this.“The work and prayers of century have brought us to this day. What shall be our legacy? What will our children say? Let me know in my heart when my days are through America, America, I gave my best to you.”Let’s add — lets us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our great nation. If we do this, then when our days are through our children and our children’s children will say of us they gave their best. They did their duty. They healed a broken land.My fellow Americans, I close today where I began, with a sacred oath. Before God and all of you, I give you my word I will always level with you. I will defend the Constitution. I’ll defend our democracy. I’ll defend America. And I will give all, all of you, keep everything you--I do in your service, thinking not of power but of possibilities, not of personal interest but the public good. And together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear; of unity, not division; of light, not darkness; a story of decency and dignity, love and healing, greatness and goodness.May this be the story that guides us, the story that inspires us, and the story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history. We met the moment. Democracy and hope, truth and justice did not die on our watch but thrived, that America secured liberty at home and stood once again is a beacon to the world. That is what we owe our forbearers, one another, and generation to follow.So, with purpose and result, we turn to those tasks of our time, sustained by faith, driven by conviction, devoted to one another in the country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America and may God protect our troops.Thank you, America.