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.
Earlier on Friday morning, Trump met with outgoing President Barack 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.
[Live updates on the inauguration of Donald Trump]
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.