President Trump: 'From this day forward it's only going to be America first'

Donald Trump inaugurated as 45th U.S. president.

Donald J. Trump was sworn in Friday as the 45th president of the United States, vowing to upend the political status quo while leading a divided nation toward a more prosperous future for the "forgotten men and women of our country."

Reprising the populist campaign themes that fueled his unexpected victory in November, Trump told hundreds of thousands of people on the National Mall that the government had lost its focus. He said his administration will tend to failing schools, crumbling infrastructure and what he described as the "American carnage" taking place in the nation's cities.

Flanked by four former presidents — including his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama — members of Congress and the Supreme Court, Trump pointedly skewered what he described as a political class that celebrated in Washington while families elsewhere struggled with economic hardship.

"From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it's going to be only, 'America First,'" said Trump, the first Republican to occupy the White House since 2008. "We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams."

Trump, 70, has promised to move quickly to unwind many of Obama's policies — including the Democrat's efforts on health care, immigration and trade. But even though Republicans control both chambers of Congress, the new president faces an uncertain political landscape.

Democrats on Capitol Hill are almost unanimously opposed to his agenda, and Republicans have been divided over some of the details as Trump has strayed from GOP orthodoxy.

Trump swore the oath of office administered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and delivered a 16-minute address — relatively brief by modern standards.

"The time for empty talk is over," he said. "Now arrives the hour of action."

Trump swore the oath on two Bibles, one from his family and the other used by President Abraham Lincoln.

Trump begins his term with historically low favorability ratings and deep divisions within the country about its future. He nodded at those rifts, telling his audience he was offering an oath of allegiance to all Americans, and quoting a passage from Psalms about the value of God's people living in unity.

"I felt like he was speaking to all of us," said Pam Wheatley. The 52-year-old Severna Park woman came to Washington for the festivities despite a persistent drizzle and threats of protests.

"I feel very, very grateful that I'm here," she said. "It's definitely history in the making."

Trump offered little to soothe concerns raised by those who voted for his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who attended the event.

Turnout appeared to be lighter than for either of Obama's inaugurations. Ridership on the Washington Metro Friday morning was less than half of what it was for Obama's 2009 inauguration, transit officials said.

At least some Trump supporters were blocked from entering viewing areas as protesters choked security checkpoints.

A crowd near the National Archives chanted, "Let us in! Let us in!" Some watched the ceremony on their mobile phones as they waited in long security lines.

More serious protests erupted in downtown Washington later, just before the new president's motorcade made its way up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House. Police in riot gear used pepper spray to break up crowds and made dozens of arrests.

Kristina Korona stood near the parade route holding a sign that read "We are the resistance."

The 37-year-old Charles Village woman, a teacher, said she has many concerns about Trump's presidency, including the way he treated others during the election. "He needs to realize there's strong opposition," she said.

More than 60 Democratic lawmakers, including two from Maryland — freshman Reps. Anthony G. Brown of Prince George's County and Jamie Raskin of Montgomery County — declined to attend the festivities.

Most Democrats showed up, citing a respect for the presidency and a desire to hear Trump speak.

"We live in a challenging and tumultuous time," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said during the ceremony. "I stand here today confident in this great country for one reason: You, the American people."

Neither the rain nor the protesters diluted the pageantry intended to show the nation and the world a peaceful transfer of power between two men with vastly different views.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence attended services at St. John's Episcopal Church early Friday and then were hosted by Barack and Michelle Obama at the White House.

In keeping with tradition, Obama — who said during the campaign that Trump was unfit for the job — left a note for him in the Oval Office.

In his address, Trump revived the law-and-order rhetoric he embraced in his campaign. He promised to address crime, unemployment and failing schools in American cities.

That language has drawn mixed reactions from people who live in cities with high crime, including Baltimore.

Trump spoke of "mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

"This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."

Trump's comments met with sarcasm from former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who was in office during the 2015 riots that put the city's problems on a national stage.

"Brilliant, why didn't I think of that?" the Democrat posted on Twitter. "Killings solved, poof."

Baltimore's current mayor, Catherine E. Pugh, who attended the inauguration, offered a more sanguine response.

"I look forward to working with the new administration on important issues such as infrastructure improvements and putting Baltimore residents to work," the Democrat said.

After a campaign that frequently pitted Americans against each another along racial, economic and political lines, Trump appeared at times to reach for words to bridge those differences.

Whether that will translate into policies remains unclear. Trump drew heat during the campaign — and support — with pledges to build a wall on the southwest border, to create a deportation force for undocumented immigrants and to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

"When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice," he said. "It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots."

In one of the more striking moments of his address, Trump reiterated criticism of the federal government he often expressed on the campaign trail. Obama sat stoically as Trump blamed the "establishment" for protecting itself "but not the citizens of our country."

"For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost," he said. "Politicians prospered, but the jobs left, and the factories closed."

Hours later, Trump flipped a charm switch, joking with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders as he signed some of his first documents as president. He formally nominated his Cabinet during the brief signing ceremony and signed legislation to waive a law that bans recent veterans from serving as secretary of defense.

The Senate voted Friday to confirm retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis for that job, and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Obama maintained a relatively low profile throughout the day. After the ceremony, the Obamas boarded a helicopter for Joint Base Andrews in Prince George's County and left for vacation in California.

As Obama walked from the Oval Office for the final time, reporters asked whether he had any last words for the American people.

He answered simply.

"Thank you."

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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