Joe Biden's team faces the logistical nightmare of holding an inauguration ceremony during a pandemic that's worsening by the day, but they're also concerned that President Donald Trump's supporters could disrupt their events.
Officials involved in the planning say public safety is their top concern, and they don't expect Biden to move away from the downsized and often virtual events he favored during the campaign, but they're not exactly how to prevent the supporters and protesters alike from attending, reported The Daily Beast.
“What do you do if our people don’t show up and his do?” said one official involved in the preparations. “They probably will, and the last thing you want is a MAGA rally on the Mall when Joe Biden is sworn in as president … I think [Trump] would want to make it as much of a sh*tshow as possible.”
Congress traditionally handles the traditional ceremony held on the west side of the Capitol, as well as the post-inauguration luncheon and the departure of the outgoing president by helicopter.
Lawmakers also hand out more than 200,000 tickets for seating toward the front, and an estimated 800,000 people watched the parade and 40,000 people attended more than a dozen balls.
Trump's inauguration in 2017 was much smaller and its theme reported prompted George W. Bush to call the event "some weird sh*t."
The congressional committee, made up of senators and representatives from both parties, isn't obligated to follow the incoming president's lead, but customarily does, and current chair Roy Blunt, the Missouri Republican senator, anticipates an outdoor, full-scale event that could be scaled back if necessary.
That's what's expected at this point, with one major fundraiser saying the areas around the swearing-in will be filled with socially distant cabinet officials and family members instead of donors and other favored dignitaries.
One Democratic fundraiser predicted Biden's theme would be "save and celebrate," as in “save lives and do a mostly virtual event.”
The Secret Service and National Park Service could seal off the Mall and surrounding streets to keep crowds away, if asked to do so, but his team still thinks it'll be a challenge to keep the public safe.
“I think it's going to be almost impossible to keep people away from the Mall,” one official said. “If Saturday is any indication of how people want to participate, it is going to be hard. Part of the point of it is to allow people to participate and the cathartic nature of it being the end of Trump. People are going to want to go.”
They're also concerned that Trump could encourage his followers to show up and cause trouble, although virtually no one believes the current president will take part in the inauguration festivities.
“I could see no church, no invitation to tea, he’d bounce from the South lawn, and then go hold a rally to entertain the masses,” said one senior adviser to a recent inauguration.