World

Biden to sign around a dozen executive orders on Day One

US authorities step up security over fears of violence from Trump supporters during upcoming inauguration

WASHINGTON: Incoming president Joe Biden would sign about a dozen executive orders on his first day in office, said his top aide on Saturday as police, fearing violence from Trump supporters, staged a nationwide security operation ahead of the inauguration.

The authorities in Washington, where Wednesday's inauguration will take place, said they arrested a man with a loaded handgun and more than 500 rounds of ammunition at a security checkpoint, underscoring the tension in the US capital, which is resembling a war zone.

The man said it was "an honest mistake", and that he was a private security guard who got lost on his way to work near the Capitol.

Incoming Biden chief of staff Ron Klain said in a memo to new White House senior staff that the executive orders would address the pandemic, the ailing US economy, climate change and racial injustice in America.

"All of these crises demand urgent action," Mr Klain said in the memo.

"In his first 10 days in office, President-elect Biden will take decisive action to address these four crises, prevent other urgent and irreversible harms, and restore America's place in the world," Mr Klain added.

As he inherits the White House from Mr Donald Trump, Mr Biden's plate is overflowing with acute challenges.

The US is fast approaching 400,000 dead from the Covid-19 crisis and logging well over a million new cases a week as the coronavirus spreads out of control.

The economy is ailing, with 10 million fewer jobs available compared to the start of the pandemic. And millions of Americans who back Mr Trump refuse to recognise Mr Biden as the legitimate president.

Mr Biden this week unveiled plans to seek US$1.9 trillion (S$2.5 trillion) to revive the economy through new stimulus payments and other aid and plans a blitz to accelerate the stumbling Covid-19 vaccine roll-out.

Meanwhile, protesters are expected to descend on statehouses across the US over the weekend as law enforcement officials girded for violence.

TROOPS

More than a dozen states have activated National Guard troops to help secure their capitol buildings after an FBI warning of armed protests, with right-wing extremists emboldened by the deadly siege at the US Capitol in Washington on Jan 6.

While many states have erected fences or other barriers to secure their capitols, Texas and Kentucky have taken the further step of closing their capitol grounds to the public.

Connecticut has activated its National Guard in preparation for as many as 2,000 mostly Trump supporters expected at its capitol complex in Hartford yesterday, a state police spokesman said.

"We are preparing possibly for anything to happen," said trooper Pedro Muniz, adding that there had not been any specific threats. "We won't tolerate any acts of violence."

In a nod to both the coronavirus pandemic as well as security concerns, festivities around Mr Biden's inauguration will largely be held online, though he still plans to be sworn in and deliver his inaugural address at the Capitol. - AFP, REUTERS

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