Donald Trump began his presidency with a combative, populist address aimed squarely at his aggrieved supporters, making little effort to reach beyond his political base or reassure foreign leaders.
His inaugural speech on Friday painted an ominous portrait of the nation at the cusp of his administration: a place of violent “American carnage” where “rusted-out factories” are “scattered like tombstones” and the middle class’s wealth is “ripped from their homes.” His predecessor, Barack Obama, sat steps away. Trump promised an unapologetic nationalism that would protect U.S. jobs and a foreign policy that would eradicate Islamic terrorism and put the country’s interests ahead of all others.
“From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first,” Trump said.
Much of the speech was couched as an attack against a national political establishment that he said had pursued its own interests at the expense of the American people. “Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another,” Trump said. “We are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.”
Anyone looking for political moderation from the new president on his first day in office would find none.
Trump enters office with historically low approval ratings — 40 percent according to Gallup — and a challenge to unite his divided nation. He and his party in Congress already are at odds, especially on the issue of the Russian government’s meddling in the election. Financial markets, which soared immediately following his election, have recently cooled.
Trump, 70, who has not previously held elected office, took the oath of office at about noon from Chief Justice John Roberts at the U.S. Capitol. In a nod to the populist groundswell that propelled him to the White House, he said he would remake the nation’s political order.
“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” Trump said as light rain began to fall. “Everyone is listening to you now.”
Read more: Text of Donald Trump’s inaugural address
“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” Trump said. “The wealth of the middle class has been ripped from their homes and redistributed all across the world. But that is the past, and now we are looking only to the future.”
Democrats criticized Trump’s roughly 17-minute speech.
“It was surprisingly dark to me,” Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow said. “Not very hopeful or inspirational. I see a lot of hopefulness in our cities and hopefulness among our people, and he described a very dire picture of America that I don’t share.”
Conservative Washington Post columnist George Will called the speech “the most dreadful inaugural address in history.”
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who was jeered by the crowd on the National Mall after advocating for gay rights and immigrants in remarks before Trump was sworn in, later criticized the new president’s administration for reversing a cut in costs for mortgage as one of its first official actions.
As the Senate opened Friday afternoon and prepared to begin confirming Trump’s Cabinet nominees, Schumer called the president’s inaugural promise to make the government work for the people “hollow.”
“We’re going to hold the president accountable,” he said.
In the evening, Trump and his wife, Melania, began a round of three inaugural balls.
“People that weren’t so nice to me were saying we did a really good job today,” Trump said at the Liberty ball, before dancing on stage with Melania to a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
“You’re going to be so happy,” he said to supporters. “We want to make America great again. We’re not going to be playing games. We’re going to be producing results.”
Far fewer people attended Trump’s inauguration than those of his predecessor. The National Park Service declined to offer an estimate of the crowd size on the National Mall, but its Twitter account retweeted a Washington Post reporter’s side-by-side comparison of aerial photos from Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 and Trump’s in 2017. The photos showed vast swaths of empty space on Friday that had been full eight years ago.
Washington’s subway system, Metro, said on Twitter that as of 11:00 a.m. in New York, 193,000 people had ridden the system. That was the lowest figure since at least President George W. Bush’s second inauguration in 2005. At the same time for Obama’s inaugurations in 2013 and 2009, 317,000 and 513,000 people had ridden the Metro system.
Trump’s speech was followed by a luncheon with congressional leaders and other politicians, including the woman Trump vanquished in the election, Hillary Clinton. Trump shook hands with her.
“I have a lot of respect for those two people,” he said of Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Afterward, he traveled a parade route back to the White House that appeared to be populated with nearly as many police and other security as spectators. Trump and his wife, Melania, and his youngest son, Barron, emerged from the presidential limousine to walk a block of Pennsylvania Avenue, getting back in just before they passed the new Trump International Hotel. They emerged again to walk another short stretch as they approached the White House.
Parade viewer David Cartmell, 66, who identified himself as the mayor of Maysville, Kentucky, said he has been to every presidential inauguration for the past 24 years. He supported Trump for economic reasons, he said, including the promise of help for two coal-fired power plants near his town.
“There is hope now for little towns like us with 9,000 people,” he said as he stood along the parade route. “We just had to vote for change.”
Financial markets ended the four-day week on a down note, with the benchmark S&P 500 Index falling 0.2 percent to 2,271.31.
Scattered protests broke out in downtown Washington by activists supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, gay rights and women’s rights, and other causes.
A cluster of several dozen people, most dressed in black and with masks over their faces, charged down streets three blocks from the White House smashing windows of about a half-dozen businesses including a Starbucks coffee shop, a McDonald’s Corp. restaurant and branches of Wells Fargo & Co.and Bank of America Corp. Police pursued them into the afternoon, deploying tear gas and flash-bang grenades to disperse crowds.
Protesters spray-painted an anarchy sign on a concrete planter. After police cornered a group of protesters at an office building, people in the surrounding crowd chanted “you’re protecting fascists” and “pigs quit your jobs.”
Later in the day, protesters lit on fire a pile of trashcans and newspaper boxes piled in the middle of a downtown street and then torched a limousine parked in front of the Washington Post’s headquarters.
Confrontations between Trump protesters and supporters were peaceful, with the groups chanting at each other. The Washington police department reported 95 arrests and said two officers suffered minor injuries.
Trump was born in the Queens borough of New York, one of five children to Fred Trump, a first-generation German-American, and Scotland-born Mary Anne MacLeod.
A graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, he took over his father’s real estate business, later renaming it The Trump Organization. He drew attention for his flashy style and high-profile deals, some successful and others ending in bankruptcy, including hotels, casinos, an airline and Trump Tower.
Trump’s celebrity grew with his role as host of NBC’s reality-TV hit “The Apprentice,” which began airing in January 2004. Contestants with business skills competed through multiple elimination rounds over the course of a season. Trump would dismiss losing contestants with the catch phrase, “You’re fired!”
Trump considered running for president several times dating back to the late 1980s. His political following expanded early in the Obama administration as he championed false claims that the president wasn’t born in the U.S. and thus was ineligible for the office.
Trump rode to the Capitol from the White House in the presidential limousine together with Obama — the first black president, whose legitimacy he had once challenged.
The shared ride to the inauguration is a tradition on a day filled with familiar rituals designed to ease the transfer of power. Obama and his wife, Michelle, hosted Trump and his wife for morning tea at the White House before the motorcade, another custom of the day.
The Obamas greeted the Trumps on the White House’s North Portico. Obama offered Trump a handshake. Trump gave Michelle Obama a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Melania Trump presented the outgoing First Lady a box wrapped in Tiffany blue.
After Trump was sworn in, the Obamas departed the Capitol in the presidential helicopter for a vacation in Palm Springs, California. Obama later tweeted from his personal account.
“Hi everybody! Back to the original handle. Is this thing still on? Michelle and I are off on a quick vacation, then we’ll get back to work.”