Donald John Trump swore the oath of office Friday as the 45th president of the United States, painting a bleak version of a country marked by “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones” as he pledged to deliver prosperity to forgotten Americans.
Trump, one of the most polarizing figures to assume the office, delivered a brief, unusually combative inaugural address matching the nationalist and populist themes he sounded on the campaign trail. The Republican, whose inauguration was met with protests in Washington and around the country, blamed an establishment from both parties for enriching itself at the expense of an ignored underclass.
“Today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another,” he told thousands of red-cap-waving supporters scattered across the National Mall.
“But we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.”
Trump, who won the presidency by smashing nearly every convention in politics, narrowed his eyes and gave a thumbs up to the crowd amid a light drizzle as he celebrated one of the most solemn and sober rituals in American democracy, a peaceful transfer of power that culminated with him ascending to an office that few thought was within his grasp.
His 16-minute speech — the shortest since President Carter’s inaugural in 1977 — lacked specific policy. In its place was a sense of anger at what he defined as a ruling class that has raided America for its own benefit. He talked of crime, gangs, drugs, poverty, jobs lost to foreign countries and a way of life destroyed by globalism.
“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” Trump said in a blunt, staccato cadence that marked a sharp departure from the soaring rhetoric of his predecessor, former President Obama. “We are one nation, and their pain is our pain, their dreams are our dreams and their success is our success.”
He promised to shift America’s focus inward, placing the country’s interests ahead of its global presence.
After his inauguration, Trump began the job of president, signing routine papers to nominate candidates for Cabinet secretary positions and a waiver that allows his pick to lead the Pentagon, retired Gen. James N. Mattis, to serve despite a rule that typically bars recently active officers from holding the post. Mattis and Gen. John Kelly, Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security, were confirmed quickly by the Senate later Friday.
Trump’s spokesman promised more vigorous action in the coming days.
Trump, in a red tie and black overcoat, made history on many levels as he was sworn in by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. At 70, he is the oldest president to begin a first term. The brash business mogul also became the only commander in chief to enter the White House with neither government nor military service. And while his predecessors included a screen actor and several war heroes, none became international celebrities in the era of reality television.
The gut-check moments along Trump’s journey — winning his first primary, the Republican nomination and the election itself — have not mellowed his disdain for tradition any more than Friday’s inauguration. His refusal to conform to political norms helped him attract millions of voters who felt disconnected from coastal power centers and eager to see a leader unafraid of offending people.
Trump’s inaugural address seemed targeted to those supporters.
“Jan. 20, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again,” Trump said. “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now.”
Though no crowd count was announced, the audience was visibly smaller than the 1.8 million people who gathered to witness the nation’s first black president be sworn in eight years ago. Still, many who came on Friday had driven 10 or 20 hours from Texas, Florida, the Rust Belt and elsewhere to see a man they believed offered a starkly different kind of politics than his predecessors.
The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.
“It sounded like someone was speaking to us – finally,” said Pam Lazarites, 61. “I’m tired of hearing about the establishment – the government, the politicians.”
She and her husband, Ted, drove to Washington from Dayton, Ohio, to attend the inauguration, wearing matching red Trump hoodies. They stood near the back of the crowd, close to the Washington Monument.
Trump’s unconventional qualities, and a promise to bring back jobs lost to outsourcing and automation, helped him compile a historic electoral upset in which he dispatched 16 primary opponents and trampled both the Bush and Clinton family political dynasties. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent who attended the inauguration with husband Bill, looked on stoically as she dutifully made her way through the Capitol to watch Trump take the job she had long hoped would be hers.
The former rivals failed to shake hands as Trump walked to the stage to deliver his address, though Trump later greeted and thanked her during a congressional lunch at the Capitol after the swearing-in ceremony, prompting a standing ovation from politicians on both sides of the aisle. Some in the inaugural crowd Friday booed and chanted “Lock her up” when Clinton’s face showed on the jumbo screens, remnants of the campaign’s ugly tenor overflowing into an event that usually feels more celebratory and unifying.
Trump shared a fuller embrace with the man he was replacing, Obama, and a kiss with outgoing First Lady Michelle Obama. It could have been an awkward changing of the guard. Yet Trump thanked Obama, whose legacy he campaigned against and whose American birthplace he once questioned, for his graciousness. And Obama, who had said Trump was unfit for the job during the campaign, smiled through much of the transfer of power. Michelle Obama was less visibly comfortable, looking sideways as Trump spoke.
The new first lady, Melania Trump, offered a note of glamour beside her husband, wearing a powder-blue shift dress under a half-sleeved bolero-cut jacket pinned at the neck with matching long gloves, reminiscent of Jacqueline Kennedy.
Even without new laws or major executive actions, the new thrust of the White House was made clear. Old Twitter handles were quickly replaced and old photos of the Obama era were stripped from the walls of the West Wing in recent days. The crimson drapes in the Oval Office were replaced with gold curtains.
US President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania Trump dance at the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center.(JIM WATSON / AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania Trump dance at the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center.(JIM WATSON / AFP/Getty Images)
Vice President Michael Pence and his wife Karen Pence, left, with President Donald J. Trump and his wife first lady Melania Trump dance at the Liberty Ball.(SHAWN THEW / EPA)
President Donald Trump dances with first lady Melania Trump during the inaugural Freedom Ball at the Washington Convention Center.(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
President Trump signs papers in the Oval Office formally nominating his Cabinet candidates.
(Pool Photo / Getty Images)
President Trump views the inaugural parade with son Barron and Vice President Mike Pence.(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)
President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and son Barron Trump walk in the inaugural parade.(Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images)
The limousine carrying President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump drives along the the inaugural parade route flanked by security.(Pool / Getty Images)
People watch from above as President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump walk in the inaugural parade.(Pool / Getty Images)
President Donald Trump greets spectators at the inaugural parade on Thursday.(Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images)
President Donald Trump waves as he walks with first lady Melania Trump during the inauguration parade.(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
President Donald Trump walks with his wife Melania (C, blue dress) and son Barron to the White House during the presidential inaugural parade.(Patrick T. Fallon / For the Times)
President Donald Trump gestures during the inaugural parade on Pennsylvania Ave. outside the White House.(Patrick T. Fallon / For the Times)
President Donald Trump waves as he walks with his Frist Lady Melania Trump along Pennsylvania Ave. during the Inaugural Parade.(JIM LO SCALZO / European PressPhoto Agency)
An onlooker snaps a photo during the inaugural parade.(Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images)
President Donald Trump waves during the inaugural parade in Washington(DOMINICK REUTER / AFP / Getty Images)
First Lady Melania Trump, President Trump, Vice President Pence and Karen Pence inspect the Army marching band after the inauguration.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
The Culver Academy Black Horse Troop equestrian team from Culver, Indiana rides during the inauguration parade.(Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)
Tractors drive past President Donald J. Trump in the viewing stand during the inauguration parade.(Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)
President Donald Trump and motorcade parade up Pennsylvania Ave after he was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and their spouses wave to the helicopter carrying former President Obama and the first family.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
From left, First Lady Melania Trump, President Donald J. Trump, outgoing President Barack Obama and outgoing First Lady Michelle Obama walk towards Marine One after President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of The United States in Washington, D.C.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Marine One carrying outgoing President Barack Obama and outgoing First Lady Michelle Obama takes off from the capitol after Donald J.Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of The United States in Washington, D.C.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Donald Trump is sworn as the 45th President of the United States by U. S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.(Carolyn Cole and Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
President Trump closes his inaugural address with a raised first.(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)
Donald Trump is sworn as the 45th President of the United States by U. S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Mike Pence is sworn in as vice president by Justice Clarence Thomas.(Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images)
President-elect Donald Trump is greeted by President Barack Obama as he arrives on the platform of the Capitol.(Paul J. Richards / AFP / Getty Images)
Donald Trump waves to the crowd when he enters before being sworn as the 45th President of the United States.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
The crowd crosses their heart and stands at attention during the National Anthem.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton leave the ceremony after Donald Trump is sworn as the 45th President of the United States.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Donald Trump gives a speech after being sworn as the 45th President of the United States.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
President-elect Donald Trump arrives on the West Front of the Capitol.(Scott Olson / Getty Images)
President Donald Trump is sworn as the 45th President of the United States in Washington, D.C.(Carolyn Cole and Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
President-elect Donald Trump pumps his fist as he arrives for his presidential inauguration at the U.S. Capitol.(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)
Vice President-elect Mike Pence, left, applauds as President-elect Donald Trump waves to the crowd as he arrives on the platform at the U.S. Capitol.(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)
President-elect Donald Trump arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol.(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
Guests sit on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Friday at the start of the inauguration ceremony of President-elect Donald Trump.(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton winks and shakes hands with President Barack Obama as former President Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama look on at the U.S. Capitol.(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
First Lady-in-waiting Melania Trump arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol.(Alex Wong / Getty Images)
President Barack Obama greets Melania Trump, Karen Pence, Tiffany Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump at the Capitol.(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
People gather on the National Mall to attend the presidential inauguration.(Olivier Douliery / TNS)
People watch from the National Mall during the inauguration of Donald Trump.(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
The Trump family, from top, sons Barron and Eric, daughters Tiffany and Ivanka, and Donald Jr., arrive on the platform at the U.S. Capitol.(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)
Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, arrive on Capitol Hill.(Pool photo)
Supreme Court justices, front row from left, John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. Back row, from left, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Bryer and Samuel Alito.(Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images)
Former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush.(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)
President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton arrive for the inauguration of Donald Trump.(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)
Campaign strategist Kellyanne Conway is greeted upon her arrival on the platform of the U.S. Capitol on Friday.(Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images)
President Obama and President-elect Trump at the White House before the inauguration Friday.(Pool photo)
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch as President-elect Donald Trump’s motorcade arrives at the White House prior to his inauguration.(Pool / Getty Images)
Former President George W. Bush and wife Laura Bush arrive near the east front steps of the Capitol.(Pool photo)
Former Senator Bob Dole arrives for the 58th presidential inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)
President-elect Trump gives a thumbs up as he and his wife, Melania, second from left, are greeted by First Lady Michelle Obama and President Obama at the White House on Friday.(Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images)
Young members of the National Cathedral Choir wait below the Capitol dome in Washington before the swearing-in ceremony of President-elect Donald Trump.(Brendad Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)
Crowds gather on the Washington Mall between the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument several hours before Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.(Shawn Thew / European Pressphoto Agency)
Crowds put on their rain gear as a light rain falls Friday morning before the inauguration of Donald Trump in Washington.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
A helicopter arrives at the Capitol before Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of The United States in Washington on Jan. 20.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Fireworks explode over the Lincoln Memorial after a public concert and appearance by President-elect Donald Trump.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
President-elect Donald Trump, left, and his wife Melania Trump arrive to the “Make America Great Again Welcome Concert” at the Lincoln Memorial, Thursday, Jan. 19 in Washington.(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
Fireworks explode over the Lincoln Memorial after a public concert and appearance by President Elect Donald Trump.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania arrive to a VIP reception and dinner with donors at Union Station in Washington(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a pre-inaugural “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration” at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
A view of the national monument at dusk in Washington, D.C.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, arrive for a celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)
Audience members sing.(Justin Lane / EPA)
A member of the media walks out of the staging area before the presidential inaugural ceremony in Washington, D.C.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Dusk falls on the Capitol as the presidential inaugural preparation continues in Washington, D.C.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
The Piano Guys perform at a pre-Inaugural “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration” at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
President-elect Donald J. Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence participate in a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.(Pool / Getty Images)
The Lincoln Memorial is seen at sunset during a pre-Inaugural “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration.”(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
Final preparations are underway Thursday for the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Members of the television media prepare for the inauguration in Washington, D.C.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Bunting is hung from the Capitol ahead of the inauguration of Donald Trump.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Missouri State University Chorale members rehearse Thursday for the inauguration of the nation’s 45th president.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
People await a sighting of President-elect Donald Trump outside Trump International Hotel the day before his swearing-in.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Dane Senser, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., traveled to be in Washington, D.C., during the inauguration. He caught a glimpse of Donald Trump through a car window as the president-elect left Trump International Hotel.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Streets are closed all around the capital as inauguration preparations are finalized.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
SWAT personnel keep watch near the Washington Memorial on Thursday.(John Minchillo / Associated Press)
A view of Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol on Thursday.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Workers assemble the stage Thursday for the Commander in Chief Ball at the National Building Museum. The ball will be held Friday after the inauguration.(Justin Lane / European PressPhoto Agency)
Trump’s top policy priorities were almost immediately affixed atop the White House website: a rollback of Obama’s efforts to fight climate change; a promise to rebuild the military, defeat Islamic State and create 25 million new jobs; lower taxes for corporations and individuals; a moratorium on regulations; and a promise to end certain trade deals.
Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton by more than 2.8 million, and he has failed to build support from skeptics who see his presidency as divisive and even dangerous.
During the transition period, a time other modern presidents have used to mend wounds from bitter elections, Trump sparred with enemies and inflamed old divisions. He held victory rallies in states that helped win him the election and continued to criticize Clinton in public appearances weeks after she faded into the woods of New York for long walks.
Though his inaugural address tended to reinforce that division, he did embed a call for unity into his broader nationalist vision, promising that “through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.” He also said during the congressional lunch that the two major political parties are made up of good people.
Yet Trump’s more persistent appeals to a lingering sense of grievance, combined with resentment from Democrats amid a period of polarization, has helped him secure an ignominious distinction. His approval rating is lower than that of any incoming president in decades, according to polls.
“He’s a bulldog. He calls people names. He has no kind of decency left in him,” said Beritu Haile-Selassie, a Washington resident who stood by herself on a traffic circle, holding up a cardboard sign that read “fake president.”
In addition to scattered protests throughout Washington on Inauguration Day, another wave of marchers were expected in the city Saturday to celebrate women’s rights and register disapproval of Trump.
Just 40% of Americans hold a favorable impression of Trump, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week. That’s lower than the approval ratings for Presidents George W. Bush (62%), George H.W. Bush (65%), Obama (79%), Reagan (58%) and Carter (78%) before their inaugurations.
Yet those ratings demonstrate another truth: Popularity at the beginning of a term does not always correlate with future popularity. Carter and George H.W. Bush lasted just one term. And Reagan, whose lower approval numbers came closest to Trump’s, later became one of the most beloved presidents in history.
Staff writers Joseph Tanfani, Seema Mehta, Michael A. Memoli and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.
5:15 p.m.: This story was updated with details about the Oval Office.
3:40 p.m.: This story was updated with more comments from Trump and protesters.
9:20 a.m.: This story was updated with remarks from Trump’s inaugural address.
9 a.m.: This story was updated with Trump being sworn in as president.
7 a.m.: This story was updated with the Trumps arriving at the White House.
6:30 a.m.: This story was updated with details on Trump attending church.
This story was originally published at 3 a.m.