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How Biden Is Preparing For His Inauguration

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Preparations for the 59th inaugural ceremonies continue this weekend. In Washington, D.C., there are flags and bunting, but also miles of protective fencing, masses of emergency vehicles and tens of thousands of National Guardsmen. It's far beyond what's been seen for past inaugurations. Matt Miller of the Secret Service's Washington, D.C., field office may explain why.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MATT MILLER: We cannot allow a recurrence of the chaos and illegal activity that the United States and the world witnessed last week.

SIMON: Tony Allen is CEO of the Biden-Harris Inaugural Committee. He's also president of Delaware State University and joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.

TONY ALLEN: Hi. Glad to be with you.

SIMON: I have to ask, Mr. President - we get to call you as head of the - president of Delaware State University - why not just move the ceremonies to the Rotunda? That's been done in the past. I covered one there for Ronald Reagan in cold weather. It seems more secure and, in a way, would also be more poignant, considering the scenes from inside the Capitol last week.

ALLEN: Well, I think you know that the inauguration is now considered a National Special Security Event. And we are working directly with the U.S. Secret Service to make sure that it's as safe as possible.

Just as an aside, President-elect Biden, thematic to his campaign, has always led with safety and security first. You'll note that many of our inaugural activities are virtual. But we do think it's important to honor some of those grand traditions of the inaugural, most notably that swearing in in the West Front of the Capitol.

And as you already have reported, there have been law enforcement professionals, particularly in the military, particularly the National Guard, on the ground guarding Washington generally and the Capitol very intently over the last week or so. So we feel comfortable. We also have a lot of confidence in our law enforcement and Secret Service professionals and are working closely with them, along with our joint committee on inaugural...

SIMON: We've heard lawmakers say very plainly that they fear for the safety of some of their colleagues. Do you have any concerns about the safety of elected representatives who will be there attending the ceremony Wednesday?

ALLEN: I feel very strongly that this will be a very secure and safe event. We have taken every precaution. As I said before, I very much believe in and have every confidence in the U.S. Secret Service and the professionals that they are working with. So we feel really good about that.

Most importantly, though, much of the activities across the inaugural events from the 18th right up and through the 20th are virtual. So we are being quite thoughtful. We obviously are discouraging people from coming to D.C. and are being thoughtful about making sure that we can create an opportunity for the president-elect to share his renewed vision for the American people.

SIMON: Mr. Allen, Trump inaugural committee raised more than $100 million, including a million from the Bank of America alone, where I understand you were once a top executive. How much has your committee raised, and what kind of accountability is there to let the public know that big donors aren't trying to buy access to a new administration?

ALLEN: Well, we haven't shared our total numbers yet. We're still in the fundraising mode. But we will do that. And it's certainly accessible as our funders make contributions. And we are very thoughtful and accountable about those dollars, putting them to good use but not being influenced by them. That was not endemic to the president-elect's campaign. It won't be endemic to his administration either. So we feel good about...

SIMON: So you will make the names of donors known in time.

ALLEN: Of course. Of course.

SIMON: OK.

ALLEN: Yup.

SIMON: Tony Allen is CEO of the Biden-Harris Inaugural Committee and president of Delaware State University. Thanks very much for joining us, Mr. President.

ALLEN: Thank you for having me. Take care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.