onald Trump has embarked on an unprecedented purge of government officials appointed by President Barack Obama in a bid to wipe the slate clean ahead of his inauguration.
Scores of presidential appointees, from ambassadors in far flung capitols to two nuclear security chiefs to the head of Washington’s National Guard, will be leaving their posts on Friday at noon, having received unexpected orders to do so, just as Trump takes office as one of the most unpopular and scandal-ridden incoming presidents in history.
While his recent predecessors were swept toward inauguration day on a tide of goodwill, Mr Trump has jolted from scandal to intrigue and back again, lashing out at his critics on Twitter and rarely appearing in public.
Just 44 per cent of Americans approve of how he has handled his transition to the presidency, compared to 83 per cent for Barack Obama, 61 per cent for George W Bush and 68 per cent for Bill Clinton, according to Gallup.
The inaugural platform will provide Mr Trump with an opportunity to turn a new page. Sean Spicer, his press secretary, says the inauguraladdress will “be very visionary and lay out where he wants to take his country”.
Kellyanne Conway, a top aide, has said it will echo his post-election pledge to be a president who stands for all Americans.
That message may be undermined offstage. The Secret Service and FBI are preparing to impose a $100 million “ring of steel” around Washington on the day amid fears of clashes.
An unprecedented number of protesters are expected to descend on the US capital, with a historic Women’s March set to take place the next day.
And amid conflicts with his own party and even members of his incoming Cabinet, dozens of high-level government employees have found themselves unexpectedly ousted.
For Major General Errol Schwartz the notice was especially harsh. He has been responsible for security at inauguration day festivities since 2008 and will be forced to step down just as the 45th president’s are getting under way.
“My troops will be on the street,” he told the Washington Post. “I’ll see them off but I won’t be able to welcome them back to the armory.”
Preparing to narrate Mr Trump’s parade down Pennsylvania Avenue will be Steve Ray, a local announcer and outspoken Trump supporter. He will replace Charlie Brotman, who had served as the official announcer at every inauguration since 1957 and said he got the “shock of his life” when Mr Trump’s aides told him he was out of a job.
Even an offer by the Obamas to leave behind the South Lawn swing set they installed for their daughters for Mr Trump’s son Barron was rebuffed.
Thousands of Americans who may have never before been energised by politics will flock to the national mall to join in a ceremony Mr Trump recently tweeted will be for “the PEOPLE”, not the elites.
Certainly, few members of the ‘elite’ will be performing.
The likes of Elton John and Andrea Bocelli, two of Mr Trump’s favourite performers, have reportedly declined to join him at the Capitol steps. Jackie Evancho, the 16-year-old ‘America’s Got Talent’ star, had received headliner billing before country singer Toby Keith came on board on Friday.
Two talent bookers claim they were offered ambassadorships if they could bring in bigger names, but the efforts appear to have fallen short.
Accepting is a high-risk proposition for celebrities. Broadway star and Clinton supporter Jennifer Holliday backed out on Saturday after receiving threats and abuse. In an open letter to her fans Ms Holliday, a Tony award winner for Dreamgirls, apologised for “causing such dismay and heartbreak to my fans”.
While Hollywood A-listers are largely staying away, nearly every prominent figure in American politics accepted their invitation.
Hillary Clinton will be seated prominently alongside her husband, attending in the capacity of a former First Lady and not of a vanquished rival.
George W Bush will attend, despite Mr Trump’s bitter feud with his brother Jeb during the Republican primaries. Jimmy Carter will also travel to Washington, and old age rather than opposition to Mr Trump will keep George HW Bush away.
Barack and Michelle Obama will, of course, be attending. They will host Mr Trump and his wife Melania for tea at the White House before the swearing in, and be joined by the Trumps for a departure ceremony after the inaugural address.
John Lewis, the civil rights icon and long-time Democratic congressman, was one of the few to announce he would be boycotting. Mr Lewis has said Mr Trump is not a “legitimate” president, because Russia had intervened in his favour during the election.
In response, the president-elect on Saturday accused Mr Lewis, who was beaten and jailed while protesting segregation, of being “all talk… no action”.
Democrats were furious at this attack on their most venerated colleague. Some predicted the boycott would swell as a result. As of yesterday ten members of Congress had announced they would not attend.
And a day estimated 200,000 women will be traveling to Washington on inauguration weekend to march in protest to Mr Trump at the largest of many demonstrations to be held in the capital.
The Women’s March is expected to be the biggest inauguration protest in history, and the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Katy Perry and Cher all plan to take part. There will be a ‘sister march’ in London, and several other cities around the world.
Mr Trump’s aides have largely ignored the looming protests, but have reacted angrily to alleged obstruction in Washington.
Mrs Conway, who managed Mr Trump’s campaign, has noted that seven of Mr Obama’s cabinet nominees were confirmed prior to his inauguration. It is unclear how many, if any, of Mr Trump’s picks will be approved before Friday.
While the senate has only voted down one cabinet nomination from an incoming president since the 1970s, there remains a possibility that Rex Tillerson, the would-be secretary of state, could be rejected.
The former ExxonMobil CEO has faced intense questioning from his fellow Republicans, most notably Marco Rubio, over his ties to Russia and lack of concrete positions on some major foreign policy issues.
Much has been made of splits between Mr Trump and his incoming cabinet that have been exposed during the confirmation hearings, including over Russia, the proposed wall on the Mexican border and the use of torture.
Mr Trump has said that is a positive, tweeting: “All of my Cabinet nominee are looking good and doing a great job. I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!”
The president-elect will have the opportunity to express his own thoughts on Friday, on the biggest stage in American politics.
He will hope the discord around him will fade temporarily as he stands on the spot where Abraham Lincoln asked Americans to help “bind up the nation’s wounds” and John F Kennedy instructed them to “ask not what your country can do for you”.
Mr Trump will vow to “make America great again,” confident that if he fulfills that pledge all else will be forgotten.