By David A. Fahrenthold, Philip Rucker and John Wagner,
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.
Then, as rain began to fall, Trump gave an inaugural address that — while short in duration — made a major break with presidential precedent. Most presidents use this moment to acknowledge the opponent they defeated, to praise America’s promise and to call upon both parties to work together.
Trump, by contrast, made no mention of his Democratic opponent, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. He used his speech to make a wide-ranging condemnation of America’s current state — talking about “American carnage” caused by urban crime, and saying that “wealth, strength and confidence had dissipated” because of jobs lost overseas.
Trump also used his address to say that both major political parties had lost their way, serving the needs of an elite rather than the needs of the public. In grandiose language, Trump sought to cast this day as a kind of restart for American politics, with everything before — Republican and Democrat — cast aside.
“The United States of America is your country,” he said.
With now former president Barack 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.”
It was a speech that closely matched the tone of Trump’s presidential campaign, which he cast as a populist insurgency against GOP orthodoxies.
But it was not as close a match with the way Trump has acted since the election — a time when he has chosen some of his Cabinet picks and top staffers from Washington and Wall Street’s existing elites. His choices have included the head of ExxonMobil, three retired generals, several top members of Goldman Sachs and several sitting GOP legislators.
“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.
Trump’s speech clocked in at less than 17 minutes, making it unusually short among recent inaugural addresses. It concluded with the signature promise of his stunningly successful presidential campaign, to “make America great again.”
During the morning’s events, there were large crowds of protestors opposing Trump with signs and slogans — and some groups of black-clad anarchists who roamed District streets smashing windows of businesses and cars.
D.C. Interim Police Chief Peter Newsham said officers have arrested more than 90 people in connection with protests that turned violent on Friday and caused “significant damage to a number of blocks in our city.”
He said a “a very small percentage” of the thousands who came to demonstrate the inauguration resorted to violence.
Newsham said demonstrators threw rocks and overturned trash cans, and broke windows at a bank, several shops including a Starbucks and an Au Bon Pain, and shattered car windows. “It’s disappointing that it had to happen. I’m extremely pleased how the [Police] responded to this and took the folks responsible for this into custody.”
After the speech, before a traditional lunch at the Capitol, Trump signed three measures. One was a bill providing a waiver for James Mattis — a former Marine general — to become Secretary of Defense, despite a law that prohibits that position going to recently retired military personnel. Trump also signed formal nominations, sending his cabinet picks to the Senate.
And he signed a proclamation declaring a national day of patriotism, new White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a Tweet. In recent years, other presidents have declared Sept. 11 of each year “Patriot Day,” in honor of the 2001 terrorist attacks. It was not immediately clear if Trump’s proclamation was a repeat of that tradition, or a new tradition on a different day.
As he entered the lunch, Trump appeared to shake Clinton’s hand. “How are you? thank you for coming. Thank you,” Trump said.
Before Trump and Vice President 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.”
Trump’s swearing-in now gives 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.
On the Internet, there were other signs of the seismic shift in power. The White House Web page — which that morning had touted President Obama’s initiatives to slow climate change — now touted a promise from Trump to eliminate “harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan.”
The Trump administration’s website also promised to be more pro-police than the Obama Administration, under which the Justice Department investigated misdeeds in local departments. There was also, seemingly, a nod to Trump’s open attitude toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia — whose intelligence agencies reportedly sought to intervene in the 2016 election to boost Trump’s chances.
“The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies, that we are always happy when old enemies become friends, and when old friends become allies,” the White House website said.
Signs of the transfer of power were on display throughout the day.
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.
The meeting at the White House between Trump and Obama marked an Inauguration Day tradition, but one 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.
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.
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.
Before meeting with the Obamas, 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.
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.
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 this is his day to command.
“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!”