President-elect Joe Biden will officially become President of the United States in just a few short hours.
But he is set to do so amid a political climate with tensions stretched to the breaking point, as well as some of the clearest threats of domestic terrorism that the U.S. has seen in living memory.
After four years of political chaos, Donald Trump will no longer be president of the world’s largest democracy. He leaves behind a legacy of bitterly-sown divisions that have cleaved America to the core.
Two weeks after a violent and deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol encouraged and initially praised by the outgoing president, the question facing the incoming Biden administration now appears less about whether the polarized country can heal, but whether enough people actually want to.
American security officials are now preparing for an inauguration like no other, with enhanced security because of the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world and the surge of violent threats from right-wing extremists opposing the peaceful transfer of power.
Some 10,000 National Guard troops will be out in force in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration.
Armed troops will be among them, following the violent insurrection on Jan. 6 and armed protests across the country in recent days by right-wing extremists who want to see Trump stay in power.
According to Reuters, riot shields and gas masks have also been seen piled up in Capitol corridors in preparation for any possible attempt by extremists at repeating the deadly rampage.
The National Guard have been on 24-hour watch in the American capital over the last several days, with large numbers of them resorting to sleeping in the halls of the Capitol building while off-duty.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said last week it is has opened 160 case files into suspected felonies committed during the siege of the Capitol, and that officials there have created a specialized strike force tasked with building evidence to support possible sedition charges against the perpetrators.
The U.S. federal force had warned the day before the deadly assault that extremists could attempt “war” in the capital the next day, according to The Washington Post.
FBI officials have been warning in the lead up to Inauguration Day that “armed protests are being planned” at all 50 state capitals.
The National Guard has also confirmed it is bracing for the potential need to deploy at sites “across the entire country” if requested to do so by local authorities.
“A lot of people were energized by what happened last week,” said Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, to the Associated Press.
“State capitals are a natural place where people might want to show up, especially assuming that they think there might be a huge presence of police and military in D.C. because of what happened last week.”
The Capitol’s West Front, which is where Biden and his soon-to-be vice-president, Kamala Harris, will take their oaths of office, is one of the sites where the extremists stormed the building two weeks ago.
Security will be tight, as it always is for presidential inaugurations.
The coordination involves virtually all branches of American law enforcement, including the Defense Department and the Secret Service, and Biden will receive an official military escort.
Fences designed to be unclimbable have been set up around the area as well.
Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence is set to attend the inauguration.
Trump has said he will not.
— With files from The Associated Press, The Canadian Press and Reuters
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