Joe Biden will no longer take the train to Washington D.C. for his swearing-in but did get an invitation to stay at Blair House, the official guest residence across the street from the White House where president-elects traditionally spend the night before the inauguration ceremony.
The invitation was extended by the State Department, where the Office of Protocol oversees the 70,000 town house at 1651 Pennsylvania Avenue. Blair House is also used for foreign leaders and important guests. The Bush family stayed there when in Washington D.C. for former President George H.W. Bush’s state funeral.
Biden hasn’t accepted the invitation to stay there, The Washington Post reported. Trump and his family stayed at the residence the night before his inauguration.
Inauguration Day typically begins with a breakfast for friends and family at the residence. The staff at Blair House attend to guests’ needs and wants, offering service and hospitality as luxurious as a five-star hotel, according to the State Department website. Blair House also employs a team of chefs who offer the best of American cuisine, featuring locally sourced food and the best American wines.
The president-elect is due to arrive in Washington D.C. on January 19th, but not by his beloved Amtrak, a change in plans that comes amid heightened security at the Capitol and reports of threats to his inauguration ceremony.
The decision was made this week, CNN reported. Biden was scheduled to leave from his namesake train station in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday for the 90 minute ride to the nation’s capitol.
There were concerns, however, about his arrival at Union Station in Washington D.C., which is only blocks from Capitol Hill. Security has increased around the complex after last week’s MAGA riot that left five people dead, a trail of destruction throughout the building and resulted in President Donald Trump being impeached a second time – this time for betraying his oath of office by inciting the mob.
The decision was likely a difficult one. Biden is known for his love of trains. During his decades-long Senate career, he commuted on Amtrak almost daily from Wilmington to Washington D.C. to be home for his sons after his first wife and young daughter died in a car accident in 1972.
In October of last year, he took a train tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania as part of his presidential campaign.
President-elect Joe Biden will no longer take the train to Washington D.C. for his inauguration
The State Department has extended an invitation for Joe Biden to stay at Blair House (the white townhouse above); it’s the guest residence across the street of the White House and it’s tradition for president-elects to stay there the night before inauguration
Joe Biden is known for his love of trains – he commuted nearly daily on Amtrak as a senator
Joe and Jill Biden took a train tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania as part of his presidential campaign in October 2020
In January 2009, then-President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph Biden took a train into Washington D.C. for their inauguration ceremony
National Guard members walk in front of the U.S. Capitol – 20,000 will be on hand for inauguration day amid heighten threats
The president-elect and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are still scheduled to take the oath of office outside on January 20th, on the West Front of the Capitol facing the National Mall.
Biden told reporters last week: ‘I’m not afraid of taking the oath outside.’
But the sight before him next Wednesday when he becomes the 46th president will differ from those of his predecessors’. Instead of thousands of cheering supporters, Biden will see thousands of National Guardsmen brought in for extra security.
An eight-foot anti-climbing fence has been installed around the Capitol Complex and has been extended down the National Mall, the area where – traditionally – a president-elect’s supporters watch him take the oath.
There remains, however, some of the traditional elements of an inauguration ceremony, including celebrity performances.
Biden’s inauguration team announced Thursday that Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem at the ceremony on the West Front and Jennifer Lopez will give a musical performance.
Additionally, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating Biden’s inauguration on the evening before the ceremony with performances by Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons.
Biden and his team have encouraged supporters to stay home, a plea originally made because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
But now there are reports of increased threats after last Wednesday’s insurrection.
The FBI has warned of armed protests being planned in Washington and all 50 state capitals in the run-up to the inauguration, including three separate plots to attack the Capitol.
‘The FBI received information about an identified armed group intending to travel to Washington, DC on 16 January,’ read a memo, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News.
There will also be no public access to the Capitol grounds during the inauguration. The city is also under a 6 p.m. curfew.
And officials are increasing the number of National Guard members who will be deployed in Washington from 15,000 to 20,000, about three times the number of U.S. troops currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
There are already 6,200 troops on the ground in DC and at least 10,000 more will arrive by Saturday.
On Wednesday evening. armed camouflage-clad troops were seen resting on the marble floors of the Capitol building and patrolling the grounds with their rifles ahead of next week’s ceremony.
Hundreds of National Guard members were spotted cradling their rifles and riot gear as they slept on the cold, marble floors between shifts. It is the first time soldiers have billeted in the Capitol since the Civil War.
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump leave Blair House in November 2018 after visiting the Bush family, who stayed there for former President George H.W. Bush’s funeral
Hundreds of National Guard troops were sleeping on the stone floor of the US Capitol on Wednesday morning as security in Washington intensified a week out from Joe Biden’s inauguration
The troops could be seen spreading out inside the Rotunda of the US Capitol on Wednesday morning
On Wednesday, Biden received a briefing from senior officials at the FBI, the Secret Service and members of his national security team about the threats and plans for January 20th, his transition team said in a statement.
‘In the week since the attack on Congress by a mob that included domestic terrorists and violent extremists, the nation has continued to learn more about the threat to our democracy and about the potential for additional violence in the coming days, both in the National Capital Region and in cities across the country,’ the statement reads. ‘This is a challenge that the President-elect and his team take incredibly seriously.’
President Trump announced last week that he will be a no-show Biden’s inauguration ceremony, a break with historical tradition.
‘To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th,’ he declared. He is expected to leave Washington D.C. ahead of time.
Biden indicated he was glad Trump wasn’t attending.
‘One of the few things he and I have ever agreed on. It’s a good thing him not showing up,’ he said. He noted Vice President Mike Pence, who is expected to attend, is welcome.
The last president not to attend his successor’s swearing-in was President Andrew Johnson in 1869 – who had also been impeached. Both John Adams and John Quincy Adams snubbed their successors too.
Shortly after Trump announced he wouldn’t be there, Barack and Michelle Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton announced they would attend. George W. Bush and wife Laura had already confirmed they would attend. Jimmy Carter, 96, and wife Roslynn, 93, will not attend, the first inaugural they have missed since 1977, while they attempt to keep safe from COVID.
Biden and his team are planning a scaled-back inauguration – plans that were already in the works before the increased threats.
Workers have disbanded stands built around the White House for the inauguration parade, which will now be a virtual event.
Instead, Joe and Jill Biden, along side Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff, will participate in a socially distanced Pass in Review on the Capitol’s West side. Those are military traditions where Biden will review the readiness of military troops.
Biden will also receive a traditional presidential escort with representatives from every branch of the military from 15th Street in Washington to the White House.
After that, the incoming president will lay a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery with former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama joining him in a show of unity.
Jill Biden will also be there as will Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, incoming Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff – part of Biden’s inauguration theme of ‘America United.’
It will be one of Biden’s first acts as president in a display of bipartisanship.
Inaugurations are classified National Special Security Event, which involves a closed air space and massive police and military presence. Several federal agencies are involved in the planning.
The Secret Service is the agency responsible for the event.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, in one of his last acts before he resigned, gave the federal government an additional week to get the security crackdown in place.
‘I have instructed the U.S. Secret Service to begin the National Special Security Event operations for the 2021 Inauguration effective Wednesday, January 13 instead of January 19. Our federal, state, and local partners will continue to coordinate their plans and position resources for this important event,’ he announced.