Joe Biden to sweep away some of Donald Trump’s most controversial policies

Joe Biden will sweep away some of Donald Trump’s most controversial policies just hours after he is sworn in as America’s 46th president.

Shortly after assuming power at noon on Wednesday, Mr Biden will sign around a dozen executive orders and other presidential actions. He is expected to remove Mr Trump’s so-called "Muslim ban", limiting immigration from mainly Muslim-majority countries, and sign America back up to the Paris climate agreement.

Mr Trump said in a farewell statement that the USA should "pray" for the incoming administration to have "success in keeping America safe and prosperous". However, he did not mention Mr Biden by name and hinted that he still plans to pursue political ambitions, saying: "I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning."

Mr Biden and Kamala Harris, his vice president – who makes history by becoming the first woman to hold either of the top two US government positions – were due to hold a ceremony by Washington’s Lincoln Memorial to remember coronavirus victims as the US death toll from Covid-19 passed 400,000.

Much of Mr Biden’s focus will be on tackling the virus pandemic and its knock-on economic impact in his first 100 days. He hopes to get 100 million doses of the Covid vaccine  distributed by the end of that period and encourage all Americans to wear face masks in public, while also getting as many schools as possible reopened.

The new president’s Covid-19 plan includes setting up thousands of vaccination sites in gyms, community centres and sports arenas. He is also expected to encourage the mobilisation of the National Guard for states struggling to bear the burden of the vaccine rollout.

Mr Biden’s incoming treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, also indicated that she could support reversing parts of Mr Trump’s flagship tax cut as the administration prepares major measures to boost the economy. Such a move would need to be approved by the Senate, which is split 50 Democratic senators to 50 Republican senators, and Mrs Yellen suggested it would be looked at only once the pandemic eases.

An historic olive branch to the estimated 11 million migrants living in America without legal status is also expected to be announced, offering an eight-year path to US citizenship.

The policy blitz is an attempt not just to reverse what the Biden camp sees as the "gravest damages" of the Trump presidency but also to tackle what they have called the "four crises" the new president faces. They were identified in a memo by Mr Biden’s incoming chief of staff Ron Klain as the pandemic, the resulting economic crash, the challenge of climate change and racial injustice in America.

Mr Biden – who, at the age of 78, assumes office as the oldest-ever elected US president – appeared overcome by emotion as he began the journey to Washington. Giving a speech before departing Delaware, the state where he lost a wife and daughter in a car crash just after being elected senator in 1972 and where his eldest son, Beau, is buried after he died of cancer in 2015, he shed tears.

Quoting the way in which the Irish poet James Joyce once told a friend that, when he died, "Dublin will be written on my heart", Mr Biden gave his own version of the comment, saying: "Well, excuse the emotion, but when I die Delaware will be written on my heart, and the hearts of all the Bidens."

Mr Biden, who served the state for 36 years as senator, added that his only regret was that Beau, who had been a rising Democratic star, was not there to witness the moment. "We should be introducing him as president," he said.

Hunter Biden, Joe Biden and Beau Biden (right), pictured in Wilmington in 2004

Credit: Eyevine/Eyevine

Mr Biden’s ascent to the presidency is the culmination of a half-century long political career. He first ran for the White House 33 years ago and spent eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president.

Reminders of the vast challenges he faces once in the presidency will be all around when he takes the oath of office on the steps of the US Capitol. He will do so not before a cheering crowd but an empty National Mall due to security threats in the wake of the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob earlier this month.

Mr Trump – who has still not admitted defeat in the November presidential election – will not be present, becoming the first outgoing US president in more than 150 years not to attend his successor’s inauguration.

Instead, he will hold his own early morning farewell event at a military base before flying to his Florida golf resort Mar-a-Lago, where he will reside after the presidency. He was preparing to issue a slew of presidential pardons as one of his final acts before leaving the White House.

Attendees at Mr Biden’s inauguration ceremony, who are set to include Mike Pence, the vice president, will sit on socially-distanced chairs because of the Covid pandemic.

Five of his most senior cabinet selections were being grilled by senators in the hope their confirmations could be secured as quickly as possible.