Real estate tycoon Donald Trump flashes the thumbs-up as he arrives on stage for the start of the prime time Republican presidential debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump has arrived in Washington — and he’s going to be here for at least four years.
The reality of the moment, that the real estate mogul and reality show star will recite the oath of office Friday, is finally taking hold.
At noon Friday, the most divisive campaign in recent history — and a similarly contentious transition period, marked by Trump’s attacks on Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, and dozens of House Democrats saying they’ll boycott Trump’s swearing-in over it — reaches its end.
Trump’s brash statements about ISIS, his cozy relationship with Russia and his criticism of NATO have the world bracing for a new type of American president.
But before all that, Republicans and Trump’s still-growing staff are set for a celebration. Trump and Vice-President elect Mike Pence go through the ceremony at the Capitol at noon, followed by a parade up Pennsylvania Avenue — and past Trump’s new hotel — to be followed by a weekend of balls and an anticipated flurry of new executive actions Monday.
Speaking at a pre-inauguration concert Thursday night at the Lincoln Memorial, which featured performances by Lee Greenwood, Toby Keith and 3 Doors Down, Trump told the crowd he vowed to be a president “for all our people.”
“It’s a movement like we’ve never seen anywhere in the world, they say. There’s never been a movement like this. And it’s something very, very special,” Trump said. “And we’re going to unify our country. And our phrase, you all know it — half of you are wearing the hat, ‘Make America great again.’ But we’re going to make America great for all our people, everybody. Everybody throughout our country. That includes the inner cities. That includes everybody.”
Later, speaking at a dinner held at Washington’s Union Station, Trump thanked Pence, his top advisers and his family as he reflected on his election victory.
“That was some big victory. That was some victory,” said Trump, who also mused that “next time, we’re going to win the old fashioned way,” an apparent reference to victory in the popular vote as well as the Electoral College.
Protesters, police scuffle
Protesters and Washington police scuffled Thursday night outside a meeting of pro-Trump conservatives, the first of several demonstrations aimed at disrupting the new administration’s inaugural weekend.
Protesters gathered on 14th Street outside the National Press Club to demonstrate against “DeploraBall,” an event organized by some of Trump’s most fervent supporters. The name riffs off the campaign description of some Trump backers by his defeated opponent, Hillary Clinton, as a “basket of deplorables.”
As attendees — some of whom were clad in suits and red hats, others dressed in gowns — entered the event, demonstrators chanted “Shame” and “Nazis go home” behind a phalanx of police. Some held signs that read “No Alt Reich” and “No Nazi USA.”
Other protesters chanted against the “alt-right,” “fascists” and “Nazi scum,” though it could not be immediately determined who was attending the event.
Some protesters could be seen setting small fires in the streets, though it was unclear what was set ablaze. A motorcycle was damaged on the street, and police could be seen pepper-spraying some protesters.
Meanwhile, the transition of power — from a Democratic president to a Republican one — has shut down much of Washington and left its thousands of political staffers in quiet anticipation.
At the same time, President Barack Obama’s last boxes are being packed and his few remaining aides are preparing to move out as they enter their last moments hours of Obama’s eight years in the White House.
Obama is spending the last full day of his presidency in the White House on Thursday, where staffers are saying their wistful goodbyes.
“After six years here, walking through these doors for the final time,” White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz tweeted.
Outgoing White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest tweeted his thanks to the press corps. “It’s been an honor to serve. And to all those fighting for a better future, I’ll see you on the other side. Thanks,” he wrote.
All around them, Washington is hustling to prepare for Trump’s swearing-in on the steps of the Capitol.
Barricades are up all around the Capitol building and traffic has ground to a halt through downtown Washington, as the Secret Service restricts access to an event where the President-elect, outgoing President, much of Congress and the Supreme Court will be on-hand.
DC workers are also navigating around the closures of five Metro stops — Mount Vernon Square, Archives, Federal Triangle, Smithsonian and the Pentagon.
Out-of-towners are streaming into Washington hotels, and small protests are popping up day and night around the Capitol complex.
One unexpected bit of inauguration-week drama: Questions over whether the National Park Service would set aside its ban on umbrellas, with rain forecast for Friday’s inauguration.
The decision: Long umbrellas still won’t be allowed. But attendees can bring small, collapsible umbrellas.
On Capitol Hill, members of the Senate are gearing up for an immediate battle over confirming Trump’s Cabinet picks.
About seven nominees may receive confirmation votes Friday afternoon, after Trump’s inauguration, while Democrats are already looking to draw out the process with some of the picks, like secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson and HHS nominee Tom Price.
Obama held his final news conference Wednesday — and his final interview was with a podcast run by a group of former aides, Tommy Vietor, Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett and Dan Pfeiffer.
In his final news conference, Obama offered an optimistic message as his party prepares to watch Republicans reverse many of its accomplishments from his tenure in office.
“It is true that behind closed doors, I curse more than I do publicly, and sometimes I get mad and frustrated like everybody else does,” Obama said. “But at my core, I think we’re going to be OK. We just have to fight for it, we have to work for it and not take it for granted.”
After Trump’s inauguration, Obama and his family will depart on one last presidential plane ride — to a vacation in Palm Springs, California. They’ll travel back on their own.