Joe Biden signs raft of orders overturning Trump policies in first hours of presidency

20 January 2021, 17:02 | Updated: 21 January 2021, 01:02

By Megan White

Joe Biden has signed a raft of orders to overturn key Trump policies in his first hours since becoming the 46th President of the United States.

The newly-inaugurated US leader wasted no time in getting to work as he signed more than a dozen executive orders as he entered the White House.

Among the key Trump policies overturned were the former president's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, the ban on visitors from some - mainly Muslim - countries, exiting the World Health Organisation and the decision not to mandate mask-wearing for federal employees in federal buildings.

Likewise, Vice President Kamala Harris immediately swore in three new Democratic senators, leaving the upper chamber of Congress evenly split between the two main parties.

As he took the oath of office, Mr Biden said: "Democracy has prevailed."

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President Biden's wife Jill held the Bible as Chief Justice Roberts read the oath of office to the president and congratulated him on assuming office.

After thanking those present at the inauguration, Mr Biden said: "This is America's day, this is democracy's day."

The president referenced the violent attack on the Capitol two weeks ago, saying it underscored the value of American democracy.

He said: "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 and democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.

"This is America's day. This is democracy's day. A day in history and hope, of renewal and resolve."

Mr Biden said it is the duty of all Americans, especially elected leaders, "to defend the truth and defeat the lies".

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The president then turned to challenges ahead, acknowledging the surging coronavirus virus that has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the United States.

Minutes earlier, Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president of the United States.

Ms Harris was sworn in by Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina to serve on the US Supreme Court.

Ms Harris' husband, Doug Emhoff, held the Bibles as she took the oath.

Lady Gaga sang the national anthem during the ceremony, while Jennifer Lopez performed This Land Is Your Land and America The Beautiful.

Garth Brooks performed Amazing Grace at the end of Mr Biden's first speech.

Flouting tradition, Donald Trump departed Washington on Wednesday morning ahead of the inauguration rather than accompany his successor to the Capitol.

Though three other former presidents - Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama - gathered to watch the ceremonial transfer of power, Mr Trump, awaiting his second impeachment trial, instead flew to Florida after stoking grievance among his supporters with the lie that Mr Biden's win was illegitimate.

Boris Johnson congratulated President Biden on being sworn in and said he looks forward to working with the Democratic successor to Donald Trump.

The Prime Minister said America's leadership is "vital" to the rest of the world, from tackling the climate crisis to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Johnson tweeted: "Congratulations to @JoeBiden on being sworn in as President of the United States and to @KamalaHarris on her historic inauguration.

"America's leadership is vital on the issues that matter to us all, from climate change to COVID, and I look forward to working with President Biden."