Donald John Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States at noon today, on a day that is expected to offer less ceremony and flourish than previous inaugurations – while ushering in a transformative shift in the country’s leadership.
Events on the Mall will begin about 11:30 a.m. ET. The weather forecast calls for temperatures around 50 degrees, with rain showers in the afternoon.
After taking the oath of office, President Trump will attend a luncheon at the Capitol, 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. Tens of thousands of protesters are expected during the day: Protest groups have vowed to gather at each of the 20 security checkpoints where attendees will enter the Mall.
Some groups have even vowed to “paralyze” the city, by blocking traffic and even public transit.
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 President Barack 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.
“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 on Thursday, kicking off three days of carefully orchestrated inaugural proceedings infused with pomp and guided by precision and protocol. “It’s a movement like we’ve never seen anywhere in the world, they say.”
Exhorting thousands of supporters at the conclusion of an evening concert that was punctuated by a glimmering fireworks display, Trump vowed, “We’re going to work together, and we are going to make America great again – and, I’ll add, greater than ever before.”
Trump and his extended family on Thursday signaled a new era in the country’s governance as they stepped off a military plane at Joint Base Andrews. They headed directly to his Pennsylvania Avenue property, the Trump International Hotel, where the president-elect irreverently toasted his Cabinet nominees.
“We have by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever assembled,” Trump said in a characteristically grandiose – and unprovable – declaration before several hundred supporters, lawmakers and allies at an official luncheon. He scanned the room for familiar faces and riffed on each individually, as if he were delivering a toast.
Trump narrated his journey and the day’s festivities on Twitter. “On my way!” Trump tweeted as he headed in the afternoon to Arlington National Cemetery, where he and Vice President-elect Mike Pence laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. They both stood in silence with their hands over their hearts as a bugler played taps.
Earlier that day, as Trump put the finishing touches on the inaugural address he will deliver from the steps of the Capitol after taking the oath of office at noon Friday, 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, Virginia, to express his gratitude to career intelligence officers.
While the bureaucrats-to-be were working, Trump supporters from throughout the country who had descended on Washington were partying at the concert at the Lincoln Memorial, which was bathed in patriotic lighting. Throngs of people extended toward the Washington Monument as an assortment of military bands and recording artists performed.
As Trump and his wife, Melania, descended the monument’s steps at sunset, the president-elect saluted the marble statue of President Abraham Lincoln, flashed a tight smile and pumped his fist in the air to the roar of the crowd and the Rolling Stones’ “Heart of Stone” playing from the speakers.
Even if attendance at the concert was not a historic turnout, the reality-television-producer-turned-politician appeared to relish the spotlight. As Lee Greenwood sang his signature song, “God Bless the USA,” Trump swayed, smiled and flashed a thumbs-up – though he appeared bored at other times as he fidgeted from his seat behind bulletproof glass.
Thomas E. Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the day’s events signaled that “this man is going to do it his way.”
“Everything points to this incredible sense of grandiosity,” Mann said. “He’s telling the country, ‘Get used to it.’ ”
Past presidents began to descend on Washington to witness Trump’s swearing-in, including Jimmy Carter, who was spotted aboard a commercial Delta flight from Atlanta. Hillary Clinton, who was Trump’s Democratic opponent, and Bill Clinton were planning to attend.
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 spent part of Thursday making final preparations for the ceremony. He visited Blair House, the government property where he is scheduled to stay the night before moving into the White House, and met there Thursday afternoon with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to discuss arrangements for Friday’s ceremony. Roberts will administer the oath of office. Trump is expected to use two Bibles: a family one and one that Lincoln used at his first inauguration in 1861.
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.”
Trump and Pence are planning to begin the day Friday at a church service at the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, which sits on Lafayette Square across from the White House and has been frequented by presidents. From there, they will have tea with the Obamas on the South Portico of the White House before making their way down Pennsylvania Avenue for the Capitol, where Trump will be sworn in.
After his inaugural address, Trump will attend a congressional luncheon in the Capitol and see off the Obamas, who are heading to Palm Springs, California, for a vacation. The Trumps will then watch the inaugural parade from a reviewing stand outside the White House. Trump will attend three official inaugural balls in the evening.
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