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What Security Measures Will Be Taken During Inauguration


When President-elect Biden is sworn in on Wednesday, it will be on the same steps where a mob of pro-Trump extremists overwhelmed police last week while trying to stop lawmakers from certifying the election that Biden won. It will be in front of a Capitol where, after that violent insurrection, 147 Republican lawmakers did vote against certifying his victory. And for the first time in 47 years, the outgoing president will not be attending. Needless to say, it is not a typical presidential inauguration. Stephanie Cutter is the executive producer in charge of putting on this inauguration, and she joins us now. Welcome.

STEPHANIE CUTTER: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

CHANG: So Biden has said that even after the security failure at the Capitol last week, he is not concerned about his own safety or the security of the inauguration. How are you feeling?

CUTTER: You know, I feel pretty good about it. You know, the Secret Service and all of the security forces have a good plan in place, as they normally would for a presidential inauguration. And the city - between the D.C. government, the mayor's office, the surrounding areas, everybody is very seamlessly working together.

CHANG: OK. Real briefly...

CUTTER: So we feel pretty good about it.

CHANG: Real briefly, what kinds of changes have you made to the ceremonies because of the security breach at the Capitol last week?

CUTTER: You know, there hasn't been that much change because when we were planning the inauguration, we were planning it in a world of a pandemic. So there were no events with large crowds. There was a scaled-down version of the swearing in on the west front of the Capitol. And some of our events that are taking place have a very light footprint. And we're finding different ways to include the American people across the country into this historic day that don't require them to travel to Washington. So a lot of those changes were already in place because of the pandemic.

CHANG: Right.

CUTTER: With security on top of that, not much has changed in terms of programs. It's just security got tighter. It'll be more difficult for citizens of D.C. to get around. It'll be difficult for people to get into the city - those kinds of things. But nothing programmatically has changed.

CHANG: Well, I do understand that a rehearsal scheduled for Sunday has been postponed. Can you tell us a little bit about...

CUTTER: That is true.

CHANG: ...This decision? Was there a specific threat?

CUTTER: No, the rehearsal was postponed because there - the security was locking down the area for the inaugural. So we just moved it to Monday for our purposes. It is not a big change. It was just the timing of how the city was putting their security arrangements in place.

CHANG: Well, are you concerned at all that reassurances about the security of the inauguration might actually encourage more people to show up in person?

CUTTER: We've made it pretty clear that whether it's, you know, the need to be safe in a COVID world - you know, we're in a - the president-elect said today that this is a - we're in the dark winter of COVID right now. For health reasons, please don't travel to Washington. And now for security reasons, it's not just us saying it, but it is security organizations and law enforcement saying that it's not wise to be traveling to Washington. And certainly, that message has been sent loud and clear to those who want to disrupt or protest the inauguration.

And look; a lot of this is typical. Obviously, what happened last week at the Capitol was not typical. That was a horrible display of disrespect for our government but also putting lives in real jeopardy. That was not normal. And that was part of an era that we are trying to turn the page on. But what is normal for inaugurations is that there are always protesters. There are always security concerns. I remember in 2009 for President Obama's inauguration - not a lot of people knew this at the time, but there was a live terror threat that the president knew about and had, you know, some remarks in his pocket so that if something happened, he could say to the crowd of...

CHANG: All right.

CUTTER: ...How they should be exiting orderly. So this is part of putting on what is called a national security event where...

CHANG: Right. All right.

CUTTER: ...You know, law enforcement works pretty seamlessly together to protect an area.

CHANG: That is Stephanie Cutter, executive producer of the presidential inauguration. Thank you very much.

CUTTER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.