Donald John Trump was sworn in Friday as the 45th president of the United States, taking office on a day that has featured smaller crowds and more subdued ceremony than previous inaugurations – but still ushers in a transformative shift in the country’s leadership.
Trump, 70, was administered the oath by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. His wife Melania Trump stood at his side. The oath was given using two Bibles – one from President Lincoln’s inauguration, and another that Trump’s mother gave him in 1955.
Trump began his inaugural address by proclaiming that with his victory, “the United States of America is your country.” With now former president Obama and three previous presidents watching from behind him, Trump seemed to condemn them as unfaithful to the popular will, saying that his inauguration signaled that “the people” would rule the country again.
“Today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people,” he said. He continued: “For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. . . . Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed.”
Trump condemned the “American carnage” of crime, and said “wealth, strength and confidence had dissipated” because of jobs lost overseas.
“We assembled here today are issuing a new decree … from this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First. America first!,” Trump said. This two-word slogan, used heavily in Trump’s campaign, had previously been infamous in U.S. history, as the slogan of isolationist forces opposed to American entry in World War II. Trump had used it as an economic message.
“Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American factories,” Trump said.
Earlier on Friday morning, Trump met with Obama at the White House – an Inauguration Day tradition, made more unusual this time by the two men’s history.
Trump, a real estate businessman and reality-TV star, began his rise in conservative politics by essentially calling Obama a liar and an illegitimate president: Trump insisted for years that Obama was born in Kenya. Obama was actually born in Hawaii, as Trump conceded late in the 2016 campaign. Obama, in turn, had mocked Trump at a televised White House Correspondent’s Association dinner in 2011.
Now, they met at the White House door, one going in and one going out.
The two men and their wives took a motorcade to the U.S. Capitol, through empty streets.
Around them, there were sporadic clashes between police and protesters around Washington. In several instances, news video showed black-clad protesters – some carrying symbols of “anarchist” groups – smashing shop windows and overturning newspaper boxes.
Earlier Friday morning, the Trumps attended a service at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House, continuing an Inauguration Day tradition. One of the preachers was Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist minister who is pastor of a Dallas megachurch, and who has made inflammatory condemnations of both Mormonism and Islam in the past.
Jeffress, who grew close to Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, said on Twitter that his sermon would be entitled, “When God Chooses a Leader.” Trump left the service about 9:30 a.m. He mouthed “Thank you” to supporters as he climbed into an SUV.
Before Trump and Vice President Mike Pence took their respective oaths, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. – who oversaw inauguration preparations on Capitol Hill – offered a brief speech praising the American tradition of peaceful transfer of power.
“Commonplace and miraculous,” Blunt called it, recalling the early, key transitions between early American presidents of different parties. That made inauguration ceremonies, Blunt said, “not a celebration of victory, [but] a celebration of democracy.”
After that, a series of Christian ministers offered Bible verses and prayers. Samuel Rodriguez, a California minister, chose to read from the Sermon on the Mount, including Jesus’ promise that “God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the earth.”
President Trump will attend a luncheon at the Capitol Friday afternoon, and his inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue will begin about 3 p.m. That parade is supposed to last about 90 minutes – which would make it one of the shortest inaugural parades in recent history.
Signs of the transfer of power were evident throughout the morning.
Before 9:30 a.m., TV footage showed Obama leaving the Oval Office for the last time, before he and the first lady held a pre-inauguration tea with the Trumps. Obama smiled as he walked down an exterior hallway, in view of cameras. “Any last words for the American people?” a member of the press called out. “Thank you,” Obama said.
Soon after, the Trumps arrived at the White House, greeting the Obamas and presenting them with a gift – a box wrapped in the distinctive light blue of high-end jeweler Tiffany & Co. The Obamas seemed briefly perplexed about what to do with it, with the president looking in vain for someone to hold the box while the new first couple and the old took a photo together.
Since Trump’s election, both men have tried to mend their relations, including with a high-profile meeting days after Trump’s stunning election.
On the White House steps, the bitter history between Trump and Obama went unmentioned. Obama asked Trump, “How was church?” and they turned to go inside.
Trump’s swearing-in will give Republicans control of both the White House and Congress for the first time since 2006. The new president has promised to undo some of the most significant pieces of Obama’s legacy – including his signature health-care law. But Trump also enters office with a significant amount of uncertainty, since he has repeatedly contradicted other Republicans – and himself – on major questions about how immigration, taxes, health care and other issues will be handled in the new administration.
Trump takes office as the least-popular new president in 40 years, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Forty percent of Americans view Trump favorably, which is 21 points lower than the rating with which Obama will leave office.
But Trump won the election, and so this will be his day. The stage – and the country – he had sought to command will be his, at last.
“It all begins today!,” Trump tweeted early Friday morning. “I will see you at 11:00 A.M. for the swearing-in. THE MOVEMENT CONTINUES – THE WORK BEGINS!”
The Capitol began filling up early Friday with guests for the ceremony, including Trump’s children and top aides.
As the Obamas and Trumps met at the White House, Trump’s 2016 opponent – former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – arrived at the Capitol with her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton wore a white pantsuit. She had worn similar pantsuits at key moments during her campaign as a nod to early suffragists, who often wore white.
Trump and his extended family arrived in Washington Thursday, signaling a new era in the country’s governance as they stepped off a military plane at Joint Base Andrews. They participated in a full day of events that included a stop at Trump’s Pennsylvania Avenue property, the Trump International Hotel, and later a wreath-laying with Vice President-elect Mike Pence at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
“We all got tired of seeing what was happening, and we wanted change, but we wanted real change,” Trump said on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial late Thursday at the conclusion of an evening concert that was punctuated by a glimmering fireworks display. “It’s a movement like we’ve never seen anywhere in the world, they say.”
Earlier that day, as Trump put the finishing touches on the inaugural address, Pence and their incoming administration were preparing to assume control of the federal government.
Addressing reporters Thursday from the transition team’s Washington headquarters, Pence said, “It is a momentous day before a historic day.”
He noted that all 21 Cabinet nominations have been made and that 536 “beachhead” officials are ready to report for duty at federal departments and agencies.
“Our job is to be ready on Day One,” Pence said. “The American people can be confident that we will be . . . It’s going to be a very humbling and moving day for the president-elect his family and for mine. But let me tell you, we are all ready to go to work.”
Trump and his team on Thursday sent signals suggesting an attempt to begin repairing relations with groups he demonized throughout his transition, including the intelligence community and the media. Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, calmly answered questions for an hour in his first formal briefing with journalists and confirmed that Trump would soon visit the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Va., to express his gratitude to career intelligence officers.
Past presidents began to descend on Washington to witness Trump’s swearing-in, including Jimmy Carter, who was spotted Thursday aboard a commercial Delta flight from Atlanta.
George H.W. Bush will not be making the trip. He and his wife, Barbara, were hospitalized in Houston this week. The former president was in stable condition Thursday and hoping to be discharged from the intensive-care unit in coming days, while the former first lady was recovering from bronchitis, spokesman Jim McGrath said.
Trump’s aides said he has taken personal ownership of his speech, writing and rewriting drafts himself with the help of a few advisers, and practiced delivering it before teleprompters this week at Trump Tower in New York.
“It’s going to be a very personal and sincere statement,” Spicer said. “I think it’s going to be less of an agenda and more of a philosophical document – a vision of where he sees the country, the proper role of government, the role of citizens.”
On Saturday morning, the new president will attend a traditional national prayer service at Washington National Cathedral before spending the rest of the weekend settling into his new home and meeting with his advisers.
Pence marveled to reporters: “Sometimes people stop me on the street they say, ‘How you holding up? I can’t imagine how busy you are.’ And I just tell them, ‘Well, you just have to understand, the energy and the enthusiasm of Donald Trump is contagious.'”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · David Fahrenthold, Philip Rucker, John Wagner