Associated Press, Author at Florida Politics

Associated Press

Women descend on DC a day after anarchists create chaos

A day after self-described anarchists created chaos, thousands of women are descending upon Washington for what is expected to be a more orderly show of force on the first full day of Donald Trump‘s presidency.

Organizers of Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington expect more than 200,000 people to attend their gathering, a number that could rival Trump’s swearing-in ceremony. Attendees are “hurting and scared” as the new president takes office and want a greater voice for women in political life, according to the organizers’ mission statement.

“In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore,” the statement says.

Women and other groups were demonstrating across the nation and as far abroad as Myanmar and Australia.

In Sydney, thousands of Australians marched in solidarity in the city’s central Hyde Park. One organizer said hatred, bigotry and racism are not only America’s problems.

The Washington gathering, which features a morning rally and afternoon march, comes a day after protesters set fires and hurled bricks in a series of clashes that led to more than 200 arrests. Police used pepper spray and stun grenades to prevent the chaos from spilling into Trump’s formal procession and evening balls.

About a mile from the National Mall, police gave chase to a group of about 100 protesters who smashed the windows of downtown businesses including a Starbucks, a Bank of America and a McDonald’s as they denounced capitalism and Trump.

“They began to destroy property, throw objects at people, through windows. A large percentage of this small group was armed with crowbars and hammers,” said the city’s interim police chief, Peter Newsham.

Six officers suffered minor injuries, he said.

The confrontation began an hour before Trump took the oath of office and escalated several hours later as the crowd of protesters swelled to more than 1,000, some wearing gas masks and with arms chained together inside PVC pipe. One said the demonstrators were “bringing in the cavalry.”

When some crossed police lines, taunting, “Put the pigs in the ground,” police charged with batons and pepper spray, as well as stun grenades, which are used to shock and disperse crowds. Booms echoed through the streets about six blocks from where Trump would soon hold his inaugural parade.

Some protesters picked up bricks and concrete from the sidewalk and hurled them at police lines. Some rolled large, metal trash cans at police. Later, they set fire to a limousine on the perimeter of the secured zone, sending black smoke billowing into the sky during Trump’s procession.

As night fell, protesters set a bonfire blocks from the White House and frightened well-dressed Trump supporters as they ventured to the new president’s inaugural balls. Police briefly ordered ball-goers to remain inside their hotel as they worked to contain advancing protesters.

Police said they charged 217 people with rioting, said Newsham, noting that the group caused “significant damage” along a number of blocks.

Before Inauguration Day, the DisruptJ20 coalition, named after the date of the inauguration, had promised that people participating in its actions in Washington would attempt to shut down the celebrations, risking arrest when necessary.

It was unclear whether the groups will be active on Saturday.

The Women’s March on Washington features a morning rally with a speaking lineup that includes a series of celebrities, Scarlett Johansson, America Ferrara, Amy Schumer, Frances McDormand and Zendaya, among them.

Christopher Geldart, the District of Columbia’s homeland security director, said he expects the march to draw more than 200,000. He said 1,800 buses have registered to park in the city on Jan. 21, which would mean nearly 100,000 people coming in just by bus.

Friday’s protests spread across the nation. In San Francisco, thousands formed a human chain on the Golden Gate Bridge and chanted “Love Trumps hate.” In the city’s financial district, a few hundred protesters blocked traffic outside an office building partly owned by Trump.

In Atlanta, protests converged at City Hall and a few hundred people chanted and waved signs protesting Trump, denouncing racism and police brutality and expressing support for immigrants, Muslims and the Black Lives Matter movement.

In Nashville, half a dozen protesters chained themselves to the doors of the Tennessee Capitol. Hundreds also sat in a 10-minute silent protest at a park while Trump took the oath of office. Organizers led a prayer, sang patriotic songs and read the Declaration of Independence aloud.

In the Pacific Northwest, demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, burned U.S. flags and students at Portland State University walked out of classes. About 200 protesters gathered on the Capitol steps in Olympia, Washington, carrying signs that included the messages “Resist Trump” and “Not My Problem.”

Republished with permission of The Associated press.

No American Covenant or New Frontier for this president. Donald Trump speaks of “American carnage.”

America is getting what it ordered on Election Day.

If anyone was expecting an evolution from Donald Trump the candidate to Donald Trump the president, never mind.

The new president delivered an inaugural address Friday that was straight from his campaign script — to the delight or dismay of different subsets of Americans.

Trump gave nods to unity and began with kind words for Barack and Michelle Obama, but pivoted immediately to a searing indictment of the status quo and the Obama years.

Presidents past have promised an American Covenant, a New Frontier, a Great Society.

Trump sketched a vision of “American carnage.”

Then he promised to end it with a nationalist “America First” approach to governing.

It was a speech for Trump’s supporters, but maybe not those who voted for somebody else.

When Trump told the crowd on the National Mall and watching from afar that “everyone is listening to you now” and spoke of a “historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before,” he seemed to harking back to his voters.

“At some point, there has got to be a transference to being the leader of all the people,” said Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, though, heard “exactly the speech Trump needed to give to be the kind of president he wants to be.”

“In a very workmanlike way, he was reasserting precisely the themes that had gotten him elected,” Gingrich said. “He is trying to communicate how he sees the next few years from his perspective: It will basically be pitched again and again as the people vs. the establishment, and it will be constant striving to reform the system.”

In his 16-minute inaugural, Trump spoke in grim terms of families trapped in poverty, shuttered factories dotting the landscape like tombstones, of rampant crime, drugs and gangs.

It was an echo of the bleak message he delivered at the Republican National Convention — and likewise short on specifics for how he will solve those problems.

His pledge to make things better came wrapped as a nostalgic paean to better days long gone.

“America will start winning again, winning like never before,” the new president said. “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.”

Nostalgia works for some Americans, but not all.

“If you’re an African-American, 50 years ago doesn’t seem so great to you,” said Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and a frequent Trump critic. “You need some kind of vision for a future America.”

The new president “amplifies resentments” in the name of pursuing change, said Gerson. “It’s always us vs. them.”

Trump did directly take on the nation’s modern security challenges by giving a blanket promise to “eradicate completely from the face of the earth” the scourge of “Radical Islamic Terrorism” — a capitalized phrase that the Obama administration refused even to utter.

But he’s given few details about how he’ll do that.

Granted, inaugurals aren’t meant to be wonky policy speeches. But they must be backed by a plan of action to have oomph.

As the new president took office, whitehouse.gov was filling up with policy pages that were long on broad goals and light on specifics.

And the question marks about his policies on taxes, trade, immigration, terrorism and more are magnified by the sometimes contradictory policy pronouncements coming from his Cabinet nominees.

Going into Friday’s address, Trump already had a lot of work to do to rally the nation behind him.

Just 40 percent of Americans have a favorable view of him, far lower than any other president-elect’s popularity since at least the 1970s, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll.

And if he can’t deliver on the bold promises of his inaugural, he’ll lose those he does have in his corner.

“The speech is notable for laying down very specific markers by which his presidency will be assessed,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. “The categorical nature of those markers is going to be problematic for him.”

Gingrich put it more bluntly:

“If he keeps us safe and creates jobs, he will almost certainly be re-elected. If he can’t do those things, he’s in deep trouble.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

On Inauguration Day, ‘House of Cards’ announces May return

“House of Cards” will return in May for a fifth season.

The show’s Twitter account posted a video on Inauguration Day featuring an upside-down U.S. flag in front of the U.S. Capitol. The video ends with the date May 30. An upside-down flag is a signal of distress.

The show stars Kevin Spacey as President Frank Underwood and Robin Wright as his wife, first lady Claire Underwood.

The upcoming season will be the first under new co-showrunners Melissa James Gibson and Frank Pugliese. Former showrunner Beau Willimon stepped away from the role after last season.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Promises, pomp and protests as Donald Trump sworn in

Pledging to empower America’s “forgotten men and women,” Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States Friday, taking command of a deeply divided nation and ushering in an unpredictable era in Washington. His victory gives Republicans control of the White House for the first time in eight years.

Looking out over the crowd sprawled across the National Mall, Trump painted a bleak picture of the nation he now leads, lamenting “American carnage,” shuttered factories and depleted U.S. leadership. President Barack Obama, the man he replaced, sat behind him stoically.

Trump’s address lasted just 16 minutes. While his inauguration did draw crowds to the nation’s capital, the numbers appeared smaller than for past celebrations.

Demonstrations unfolded at various security checkpoints near the Capitol as police helped ticket-holders get through. After the swearing-in, more protesters registered their rage in the streets of Washington. Police in riot gear deployed pepper spray and made numerous arrests after protesters smashed the windows of downtown businesses, denouncing capitalism and Trump.

The new president’s first words as commander in chief were an unapologetic reprisal of the economic populism and nationalism that fueled his improbable campaign. He vowed to stir “new national pride,” bring jobs back to the United States, and “eradicate completely” Islamic terrorism.

“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only, ‘America First,'” Trump said.

His address lasted just 16 minutes. While Trump’s inauguration did draw crowds to the nation’s capital, the numbers appeared smaller than for past celebrations.

In a remarkable scene, Trump ripped into Washington’s longtime leaders as he stood among them at the U.S. Capitol. For too long, he said, “a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.”

For Republicans eager to be back in the White House, there was little mention of the party’s bedrock principles: small government, social conservativism and robust American leadership around the world. Trump, who is taking office as one of the most unpopular incoming presidents in modern history, made only oblique references to those who may be infuriated and fearful of his presidency.

“To all Americans in every city near and far, small and large from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again,” he said.

The new president was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts, reciting the 35-word oath with his hand placed upon two Bibles, one used by his family and another during President Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration.

Trump and wife, Melania, bid Obama and outgoing first lady Michelle Obama farewell as they departed the Capitol grounds in a government helicopter. Trump and Obama’s political paths have been linked in remarkable ways. Before running for the White House, the billionaire businessman led efforts to promote falsehoods about the 44th president’s citizenship and claim on the office.

Obama addressed a staff gathering at Joint Base Andrews before departing for a vacation in California. “You proved the power of hope,” he said.

Trump’s journey to the inauguration was as unlikely as any in recent American history. He defied his party’s establishment, befuddled the media and toppled two political dynasties on his way to victory. His message, calling for a resurgence of white, working-class corners of America, was packaged in defiant stump speeches railing against political correctness. He used social media to dominate the national conversation and challenge conventions about political discourse. After years of Democratic control of the White House and deadlock in Washington, his was a blast of fresh air for millions.

But Trump’s call for restrictive immigration measures and his caustic campaign rhetoric about women and minorities angered millions. And Trump’s swearing-in was shadowed by questions about his ties to Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies have determined worked to tip the 2016 election in his favor.

More than 60 House Democrats refused to attend his swearing in ceremony in the shadow of the Capitol dome. One Democrat who did sit among the dignitaries was Hillary Clinton, Trump’s vanquished campaign rival who was widely expected by both parties to be the one taking the oath of office.

At a post-ceremony luncheon at the Capitol, Trump asked the Republicans and Democrats present to recognize her, and those in the room rose and applauded.

At 70, Trump is the oldest person to be sworn in as president, marking a generational step backward after two terms for Obama, one of the youngest presidents to serve as commander in chief.

Trump takes charge of an economy that has recovered from the Great Recession but has nonetheless left millions of Americans feeling left behind. The nation’s longest war is still being waged in Afghanistan and U.S. troops are battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The American health care system was expanded to reach millions more Americans during Obama’s tenure, but at considerable financial costs. Trump has vowed to dismantle and rebuild it.

Trump faces challenges as the first president to take office without ever having held a political position or served in the military. He has stacked his Cabinet with established Washington figures and wealthy business leaders. Though his team’s conservative bent has been cheered by many Republicans, the overwhelmingly white and male Cabinet has been criticized for a lack of diversity.

Before attending an inaugural luncheon, Trump signed his first series of orders, including the official nominations for his Cabinet. He joked with lawmakers, including House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, and handed out presidential pens.

In a show of solidarity, all of the living American presidents attended Trump’s inaugural, except for 92-year-old George H.W. Bush, who was hospitalized this week with pneumonia. His wife, Barbara, was also admitted to the hospital after falling ill.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump hits campaign themes in inaugural speech

The Latest on Donald Trump‘s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States:

12:15 p.m.

In his inauguration speech, President Donald Trump is repeating the dark vision and the list of the country’s woes that he hit on during the campaign.

Trump describes closed factories as “tombstones” that dot the county and says the federal government has spent billions defending “other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own.”

The Republican president says the U.S. “will confront hardships but we will get the job done.”

He says the oath of office he just took “is an oath of allegiance to all Americans” and said that the country will share “one glorious destiny.”

___

12:14 p.m.

President Donald Trump says Americans came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement “the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

Trump says the United States exists to serve its citizens.

He says Americans want great schools, safe neighborhoods and good jobs.

But he says too many people face a different reality: rusted-out factories, a bad education system, crime, gangs and drugs.

Trump says the “carnage stops right here and right now.”

___

12:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump is beginning his inaugural address by saying that “together we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come.”

He says Americans have “joined a great national effort to build our country and restore its promise for all people.”

It began to rain in Washington as Trump started speaking.

Trump also thanked all of the past presidents in attendance, including former campaign foes Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

___

12 p.m.

Donald Trump is now the 45th president of the United States. He’s just taken the oath of office on the West Front of the Capitol.

The combative billionaire businessman and television celebrity won election in November over Democrat Hillary Clinton, and today he’s leading a profoundly divided country — one that’s split between Americans enthralled and horrified by his victory.

The unorthodox politician and the Republican-controlled Congress are already charting a newly conservative course for the nation. And they’re promising to reverse the work of the 44th president, Barack Obama.

Up next is Trump’s inaugural address — where the new commander in chief is expected to set out his vision for the country’s next four years.

___

11:55 a.m.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas administered the oath of office.

President-elect Donald Trump chose Pence, the former governor of Indiana, as his running mate last summer.

___

11:45 a.m.

U.S. embassies and consulates in at least 10 nations in Asia, Europe and Latin America are warning of potentially violent protests through the weekend against the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president.

Security notices posted by U.S. diplomatic missions in Chile, Denmark, France, Greece, Haiti, Italy the Netherlands, Paraguay, Portugal and the Philippines advise American in those countries to steer clear of embassies and consulates on Friday and, in some cases, on Saturday and Sunday. That’s due to the possibility of unrest and clashes with police.

The notices say the planned demonstrations are either focused on “U.S. politics” or are “inauguration-related.”

___

11:32 a.m.

President-elect Donald Trump has taken the stage for his inauguration.

The Republican businessman from New York flashed a thumbs-up to the crowd as he was introduced.

Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence took the stage at the Capitol minutes after President Barack Obama and members of his family and administration.

Trump will soon be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

___

11:30 a.m.

Hundreds of people who worked for President Barack Obama are arriving at Andrews Air Force Base to hear some final parting words from the soon-to-be ex-president.

Hours before Obama was to speak, former White House and administration staffers are gathering in a hangar where a small stage with a lone American flag was set up for him.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, are leaving the Capitol by military helicopter after witnessing Donald Trump’s swearing-in, and they’re being flown to the base in Maryland just outside Washington.

The Obamas will vacation in Palm Springs, California.

___

11:25 a.m.

The dais is filled for the inauguration on the West Front of the Capitol.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have taken their seats.

And President-elect Donald Trump‘s family is ready.

The stage is set for Donald Trump to be sworn in as the next president of the United States.

___

11:20 a.m.

In the crowd gathered on the National Mall for the inauguration, there’s no shortage of fans of Democratic figures.

Big cheers went up when images were shown of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who ran for president against Hillary Clinton. But the biggest cheer so far for a Democrat has gone to first lady Michelle Obama. She received sustained applause as people watched her appear on the television screens.

___

11:15 a.m.

As Donald Trump and President Barack Obama made their way to the Capitol, police were confronting a group of demonstrators wearing black in downtown Washington and using what appeared to be pepper spray.

Protesters were carrying signs denouncing capitalism and Trump.

Police cordoned off about 100 demonstrators who chanted “hands up, don’t shoot.”

A helicopter hovered overhead.

___

11:10 a.m.

President Barack Obama and his successor, Donald Trump, have arrived at the Capitol for Trump’s swearing-in ceremony.

Trump is joined by his family, including his five children Eric, Don Jr., Ivanka, Tiffany and youngest son, Barron.

___

11:05 a.m.

Incoming first lady Melania (meh-LAH’-nee-ah) Trump is wearing a sky blue cashmere jacket and mock turtleneck combination by Ralph Lauren for Inauguration Day.

In a statement, the Lauren Corp. says: “It was important to us to uphold and celebrate the tradition of creating iconic American style for this moment.”

Mrs. Trump’s hair is in a soft updo and accessorized with long suede gloves and matching stilettos. She was greeted at the White House by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama was wearing red, short-sleeve dress.

Ivanka Trump chose Oscar de la Renta, and Hillary Clinton showed up in a white Ralph Lauren pantsuit that harkened back to the one she wore to accept the Democratic nomination for president at her party’s convention in July. Her jacket matched.

Who else made a large fashion statement for Trump’s big day?

Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway wore a military-style wool coat by Gucci of red, white and blue, with two rows of cat-head buttons and a matching red cloche hat. She described her look as “Trump revolutionary wear.”

___

11 a.m

President Barack Obama’s departing White House staff is offering a subtle message on the walls of their lower press office as he leaves office.

Obama aides left up on a wall printed front pages from some of Obama’s biggest moments, including his 2009 inaugural, his signing of his health care law and the death of Osama bin Laden.

The wall typically features the day’s front pages. The compilation of Obama front pages was put up about a week ago.

Obama’s press offices were largely emptied out when Trump arrived at the White House for tea with the outgoing president.

It was unclear whether the front pages will still be there when Trump’s team arrives. A cleaning crew was expected to prepare the premises for the incoming administration.

___

10:55 a.m.

Hillary Clinton says she’s attending Donald Trump’s inauguration to “honor our democracy.”

Clinton made the comment on Twitter Trump took the oath of office. Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton are both in attendance.

Here’s what Clinton is saying: “I’m here today to honor our democracy & its enduring values. I will never stop believing in our country & its future.”

___

10:50 a.m.

President Barack Obama and his successor, Donald Trump, are departing the White House to head to Trump’s inauguration.

The pair got into a limousine that will take them to the Capitol.

Also on their way are Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama and Trump’s wife, Melania.

___

10:35 a.m.

Crowds on the National Mall — where people without tickets can watch the inauguration — are growing steadily.

But less than two hours before the swearing-in, there are still wide swaths of empty space. There are strong suggestions that the crowds will not match President Barack Obama’s first inaugural eight years ago.

Some people were prevented by security barriers from getting closer to the Capitol despite having plenty of space in front of them.

The grass on the Mall was protected by white plastic and there were some muddy spots amid intermittent rain.

___

10:33 a.m.

Most of the Donald Trump backers who are walking to the inauguration past Union Station in Washington are trying to ignore protesters outside the train station.

Then there’s Doug Rahm, who engaged in a lengthy and sometimes profane yelling match with protesters.

“Get a job,” Rahm said. “Stop crying snowflakes, Trump won.”

Rahm — who’s from Philadelphia and does high-rise restorations, is with Bikers for Trump. He says the protesters should get behind the new president.

He says, “This is unite America day.”

___

10:25 a.m.

President Barack Obama has left a letter for his successor in the Oval Office before departing the White House — as is the tradition from one president to the next.

The White House is providing no details about what Obama conveyed to Donald Trump.

Obama campaigned vigorously against Trump. But the president and president-elect have had regular phone conversations since the election, with the president offering guidance and advice.

___

10:20 a.m.

Belgium’s prime minister hopes Donald Trump will uphold NATO’s security guarantees and live up to the expectations of the American people.

Charles Michel says in a statement before Trump takes the oath of office that “it is essential that our engagement is maintained” to guarantee peace and stability through NATO.

Trump has called NATO “obsolete” and says European members aren’t paying their fair share.

Michel’s statement contains no congratulations. He does say “the expectations of the American people are high” and hopes Trump “will be able to deliver.”

Michel also says the European Union is entering a new era and it’s his belief “that Europe more than ever needs to defend its own agenda and interests.”

___

10:05 a.m.

The White House says members of the residence staff have presented President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama with two American flags that were flown atop the building.

One of the flags was flown on the first day of Obama’s presidency. The other was flown on his final morning as president.

The Obamas are preparing to depart the White House for the last time as president and first lady when they head to Donald Trump’s inauguration.

___

9:45 a.m.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are asking the public to help them develop projects for his new presidential center on Chicago’s South Side.

The Obamas are starting up a foundation website — Obama.org — in the hours before Donald Trump is inaugurated the 45th president.

Obama says the foundation’s projects will be developed “all over the city, the country and the world.” He asks Americans to “tell us what you want this project to be and tell us what’s on your mind.”

The foundation is developing Obama’s presidential library and center in Chicago.

___

9:40 a.m.

Donald Trump is heading to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama.

Trump has left St. John’s Church across from the White House. He paused to shake hands with a clergy member at the door and then walked to his waiting vehicle.

There were cheers from supporters as Trump left the church.

He was followed by family members and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Pence said he was “very humbled” when he was asked about his message for the day.

___

9:35 a.m.

President Barack Obama is taking a final stroll from the Oval Office through the Rose Garden as a sitting president. He’s soon to welcome his successor, Donald Trump, to the White House.

Obama was seen leaving papers on his desk in the Oval Office. He’s told reporters he’s feeling nostalgic on his final day as president.

He says his final message to the American people is “thank you.”

___

9:30 a.m.

President Barack Obama is bidding farewell on Twitter.

Here’s what it says on the official presidential account: “It’s been the honor of my life to serve you.”

The president has been striking an optimistic tone in the final days of his administration.

He tells followers that he’s “still asking you to believe – not in my ability to bring about change, but in yours.”

The president is also asking people to share their thoughts about the focus of his new foundation’s work.

He says: “I won’t stop; I’ll be right there with you as a citizen, inspired by your voices of truth and justice, good humor, and love.”

___

9:25 a.m.

Donald Trump will soon have a new home — the White House.

But what about another property just down Pennsylvania Avenue: the hotel he leases from the federal government at the Old Post Office building.

The contract with the General Services Administration bars elected officials from benefiting from it. Yet Trump hasn’t said he’s divested from the hotel — and he hasn’t tried to alter the contract.

House Democrats say GSA officials told them that Trump would violate the contract the moment he takes office. The GSA has said publicly it won’t weigh in on the matter until after Trump’s in office.

___

9:20 a.m.

Protesters are trying to block access to security checkpoints across Washington to prevent spectators from making to Donald Trump’s inauguration festivities.

But so far, they’re not having too much success.

At one checkpoint a line of protesters are chanting “this checkpoint is closed” but a video of the scene posted online shows people going around them.

Police are directing people to walk around the lines of protesters.

The Washington Post is quoting a Washington police officer by name and saying one checkpoint was shut down at 8:30 a.m. due to protesters.

___

9:15 a.m.

Moscow is hoping for better ties with the United States, and Russian officials and lawmakers are welcoming Donald Trump’s inauguration as the start of a potential new chapter.

In Moscow and other Russian cities, people have gathered at parties to celebrate Trump’s impending ascension to power.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says that while Trump’s policy toward Russia is unclear yet, “we are hoping that reason will prevail.”

Medvedev says on Facebook: “We are ready to do our share of the work in order to improve the relationship.”

___

9:10 a.m.

About 100 protesters are attempting to block a gate near the inaugural parade route in Washington.

They’re calling for a response to climate change and they’re holding signs that say “Resist Trump, climate justice now.”

There are also chants of “This is what democracy looks like!”

Police are keeping a lane open for ticket holders to get through.

___

9:05 a.m.

House Democrats will wear special buttons at Donald Trump’s inauguration as a silent protest of Republican efforts to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The blue buttons say #protectourcare. That’s a Twitter hashtag that some advocacy groups have been using to rally support for the law.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has asked Democrats to show solidarity at the swearing-in and wear the buttons.

More than 50 House Democrats plan to boycott the ceremony. Some are citing Trump’s criticism of John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and civil rights leader who’s questioned Trump’s legitimacy to be the next president.

___

8:55 a.m.

Donald Trump says his inauguration will have “an unbelievable, perhaps record-setting turnout.” Organizers of a protest the next day say their event will be the biggest demonstration in history to welcome a new president.

But how many people will show up at those gatherings? That’s a question that may never be answered satisfactorily.

There won’t be an official tally at Friday’s inaugural festivities or the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday.

For decades, the National Park Service provided official crowd estimates for gatherings on the National Mall.

But the agency stopped providing counts after organizers at 1995’s Million Man March threatened a lawsuit. They complained that the National Park Service undercounted attendance at the march.

___

8:50 a.m.

It was still dark when Jeff McNeely and Rob Wyatt woke up and caught an early train to Washington for Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The political activists from North Carolina say they supported Trump from early on and wanted to witness the historic day in person.

McNeely calls Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton “the greatest political upset of all time.”

Wyatt wants Americans to give Trump “the opportunity to learn.” Wyatt says Trump’s “going to make mistakes,” but he also says, “so has every president we’ve had.”

___

8:45 a.m.

Actor Matthew McConaughey says the American people need to “embrace” the fact that Donald Trump won the election and make the best of the next four years.

The movie star says Americans need to “shake hands with the fact that this is happening and it’s going down.”

McConaughey is in London promoting two new movies and says he’s planning to watch the swearing-in live.

He’s predicting that “it’s going to be a dynamic four years.”

___

8:40 a.m.

President-elect Donald Trump has emerged from Blair House to start the Inauguration Day festivities.

Trump and his wife, Melania, stepped out of the government guest house next to the White House just after 8:30 a.m. and took a motorcade for the short drive to St. John’s Episcopal Church. A light rain is falling.

After the service, they’ll head to the White House to be greeted by President Barack Obama.

___

7:30 a.m.

Why should Inauguration Day be any different for Donald Trump?

He’s up and tweeting early again.

Here’s what he says: “It all begins today! I will see you at 11:00 A.M. for the swearing-in. THE MOVEMENT CONTINUES – THE WORK BEGINS!”

Trump and his wife, Melania, are set to begin their day at St. John’s Episcopal Church, across from the White House.

Later in the morning, they’ll meet with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the White House. Then comes the trip to the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

As Donald Trump takes the oath, many voters still can’t believe it

On the morning 19 months ago when Donald Trump descended the escalator in his glitzy Manhattan tower, waving to onlookers who lined the rails, many Americans knew little about him beyond that he was very rich and had a thing for firing people on a reality television show.

No one can plausibly say they knew that the man who launched his candidacy that day would be elected the nation’s 45th president. As Trump prepares to take the oath of office Friday, many Americans still can’t quite believe that a presidency that still seems almost bizarrely improbable becomes a reality on Friday.

“I thought it was a joke. He’d run, he’d lose early and he’d be out,” said Christopher Thoms-Bauer, 20, a bookkeeper and college student from Bayonne, New Jersey, who originally backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio‘s Republican candidacy.

Then, Thoms-Bauer recalled, came the night in November when he joined friends in a diner after a New Jersey Devils hockey game and watched, stunned, as Trump eked out wins in key states.

“Having this realization that he was really going to become president was really just a surreal moment,” said Thoms-Bauer, who gave his write-in vote to Evan McMullin, a former CIA agent who ran as a conservative alternative to Trump. “It still doesn’t make sense.”

For all the country’s political divisions, plenty of people on both sides of the aisle share that disbelief.

“I thought there was no way he could win,” said Crissy Bayless, a Rhode Island photographer who on Thursday tweeted a picture of the Statue of Liberty holding her face in her hands, despairing over Trump’s imminent inauguration.

“How am I feeling? Wow.. disgusted. nauseous and honestly like I’m in a nightmare,” Bayless, 38, wrote in a conversation via email.

When Barack Obama won the White House in 2008, the election of the nation’s first black president felt to many like one of the most improbable moments in the nation’s political history. The idea of the election of a white billionaire born of privilege feels implausible to many in very different ways — and that may say as much about the country as it does about Trump.

When Trump announced his candidacy, Kayla Coursey recognized him as the developer who had tried and failed to build a golf course she’d opposed in her hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. She recalled him as stubborn and resistant to pressure from local residents and officials. That, she said made his candidacy for president feel like a joke. Trump’s election felt downright surreal, she said.

In the weeks since, “there was always the hope that things will somehow magically become better. However, now we know (Friday) at noon we’re going to be welcoming President Trump, which is surreal in and of itself,” said Coursey, a college student in Roanoke, Virginia.

David Sawyers, a 42-year-old truck unloader from Grindstone, Pennsylvania, who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary before voting for Trump, said the big crowds that turned out for the candidate’s rallies convinced him the billionaire could win. But he never felt certain, not when he recalled how Al Gore had won the popular vote in 2000, but lost the presidency to George W. Bush.

“You follow history,” said Sawyers, who’s happy with the outcome, “and there are some points where you definitely know history is being made and tomorrow is one of those times.”

Sawyers will be working during Friday’s inauguration, so he plans to record it and watch it later. But others said they remain so stunned by Trump’s election it will be best if they turn away.

Tyler Wilcox, a 23-year-old musician in Riverton, Utah, has been dreading inauguration day. He lists his location on Twitter as “Not My President” and is planning to avoid all coverage of the ceremonies.

“I just feel like it’s, I guess you can say, the beginning of the end,” he said.

And Coursey, who identifies as “queer” and is deeply worried by the threat she believes Trump’s administration poses to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, said she would avoid joining other students in the dorm television lounge to watch the inauguration.

“I’m concerned that I’d be just a crying mess in the corner, or that somebody would say something and I wouldn’t hold my tongue or I’d end up getting in some kind of a physical argument,” she said.

Instead, Coursey said, she plans to search for a recording of Trump’s speech once it’s over, when she can watch it in private That way, she figures, she can pause it in uncomfortable moments when the presidency she never imagined becomes a little too real.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Another inaugural tradition — prayer — under fire over Donald Trump

For years, the Washington National Cathedral, an Episcopal parish with a dual role as a civic gathering place, has hosted a prayer service for the newly sworn-in president. But keeping the tradition this year has caused an uproar among Episcopalians opposed to President-elect Donald Trump.

It’s the latest example of the backlash against religious leaders, artists, celebrities and other participants in events surrounding the inaugural.

The cathedral for the largely liberal denomination will host an interfaith prayer service on Saturday, the day after Trump takes office. Bishop Mariann Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington wrote in a blog post that while she shared “a sense of outrage at some of the president-elect’s words and actions,” she felt an obligation to welcome all people without qualification, especially those who disagree and need to find a way to work together. That role “requires a willingness to put ourselves in places that make us uncomfortable,” Budde wrote.

Episcopalians critical of the decision were also upset to learn that the cathedral choir, drawn in part from local Episcopal schools, would sing at the inauguration before the ceremony started, and that the interfaith service the next day would not include a sermon. They saw a missed opportunity to speak out against Trump’s proposed temporary ban on Muslim immigrants and other policies, his calling Mexicans rapists and his remarks about grabbing women’s genitals. Organizers for past services have said the presidential inaugural committees have chosen the preacher, and Trump chose not to have one this year.

Budde said most Episcopalians who have contacted her about the service “are dismayed, disappointed and angry.”

The Very Rev. Randolph Hollerith, the cathedral dean, defended the decision to participate in the ceremonies. “Our willingness to pray and sing with everyone today does not mean we won’t join with others in protest tomorrow,” he said in a statement.

The emotional dispute within the church mirrors the broader fight about the morality of taking part in inaugural events this year, which has stretched across the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a Bruce Springsteen cover band, the Radio City Rockettes and the marching band of historically black Talladega College in Alabama. Groups participating in inauguration events have said they viewed their role in part as serving the country and supporting democracy, not giving an endorsement.

Broadway star Jennifer Holliday, who backed out as a performer following protests from her gay and black fans, said she was pained by the reaction. “How could I have this much hate spewing at me, and I haven’t even done anything? I guess it’s not like those old days when political views were your own and you had freedom of speech,” she said. “We live in a different time now and a decision to go and do something for America is not so clear-cut anymore.”

Some clergy invited to offer prayers at Friday’s swearing-in have also faced criticism. New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who will read from Scripture at the inaugural, said he told critics he had a “sacred responsibility” to participate. “Had Mrs. Clinton won and invited me I would have gone too. It’s not the person. It’s the office, right?” Dolan said on Sirius XM’s Catholic Channel last week.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who will offer a prayer near the end of Friday’s program, said, “I believe that all of us should pray for his great success, because his great success means our great success.”

But critics contend Trump will be a president unlike any other, because of his policies and vulgarity, so traditions surrounding his inauguration should not hold. The Rev. Gary Hall, who retired in 2015 as dean of the National Cathedral, noted that the church was envisioned as a Westminster Abbey for the U.S. It has long been the site of national events, hosting inaugural interfaith prayer services, presidential funerals and national prayers of mourning, including a ceremony with evangelist Billy Graham three days after the Sept. 11 attacks. But Trump’s “xenophobia and misogyny,” among other behavior and proposed policies, have been “outside the bounds of all mainstream norms” and the church should not appear to bless him, Hall wrote.

“We cannot use the words, symbols, and images of our faith to provide a religious gloss to an autocrat,” Hall wrote.

The head of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, responded to the controversy over the cathedral with a statement urging all to pray for Trump and all civic leaders.

“Prayer is not a simplistic cheer or declaration of support,” he wrote, but can also “ask God to intervene and change the course of history, to change someone’s mind or his or her heart.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

First day goal? Make White House feel like home for Donald Trump

It’s supposed to feel just like home when Donald Trump steps inside the White House residence for the first time as president on Inauguration Day.

His clothes will be hanging in the closet. The kitchen will be stocked with his favorite foods. Windows will have been washed, carpets vacuumed or replaced, and fresh linens and towels will be in all the bedrooms and baths. No packed or half-empty boxes will be lying around either, unlike a typical home move.

Trump and his wife, Melania, can thank the nearly 100 butlers, maids, plumbers, electricians and other staffers who maintain the private living areas of the White House. The crew will have just the hours between Trump’s swearing-in and the end of the inaugural parade to remove all traces of President Barack Obama and his family and make the Trumps feel at home.

“I’ve called it, for years, organized chaos,” says Gary Walters, a former White House chief usher who oversaw the move in-move out process for four presidents.

The “chaos” breaks out moments after the outgoing president and the president-elect depart the White House for the oath-taking ceremony at the Capitol. However, the process itself starts after the November election when the White House chief usher reaches out to the incoming president’s team to begin coordinating the new First Family’s big move.

Melania Trump toured the living quarters in November when she accompanied her husband to the White House for his postelection meeting with Obama.

Trump, the businessman and reality TV star, now lives primarily at his three-story penthouse at Trump Tower on New York’s Fifth Avenue, and may continue to spend considerable time there because his wife and their 10-year-old son, Barron, plan to remain in New York until the school year ends.

The Obamas started packing up their belongings weeks ago. Crates and boxes lined hallways and filled the East Room last week. Mrs. Obama isn’t doing a lot of packing herself, but she recently said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that “I’m doing a lot of pointing” to indicate what needs to be boxed up.

Obama told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that he’s taking books, clothes, mementos and furniture bought since he became president. He and the first lady didn’t bring many large items with them because they left their home in Chicago intact. They also won’t be going far when they leave the White House.

After vacation in Palm Springs, California, the Obamas will settle into a rented mansion in Washington’s upscale Kalorama neighborhood. In a break with tradition, they plan to stay in the capital for a few years so their 15-year-old daughter, Sasha, can graduate from her private high school.

One of their new neighbors will be Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared, who will become a senior adviser to his father-in-law. The couple plan to move into a mansion in the same neighborhood with their three young children.

As the transition of power takes place at the Capitol on Friday, the White House residence staff oversees the transition from one family to another in a manner befitting an HGTV special.

Moving trucks for each family are positioned nearby and are directed through tight security to the White House when they get the all-clear.

Residence staff members are broken up into groups and given specific assignments. Some will pack the Obama family’s remaining items, and another group will carry them out to the truck. Other staffers will bring the Trumps’ things into the White House while still others unpack and put them in their designated places.

All the while, “you’re changing sheets and you’re changing towels and the housekeepers are working feverishly,” said Anita McBride, who was chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush.

But, adds Walters, “the end product is that when the new president and first lady come through the North Portico door after the parade that they walk into their home. Everything is in place.”

For Trump, a real estate mogul whose brand is flashy luxury, the move may mean bringing some of his flamboyant style to the White House. Trump’s penthouse in Manhattan and his hotels are known for their marble columns, crystal chandeliers and gold.

Earlier, before welcoming the president-elect for a pre-inaugural reception, the outgoing president, the chief usher and the residence staff traditionally meet for what often is an emotional goodbye. Over the years, the staff often becomes attached and protective of the president and his family, particularly those who serve two terms. In Obama’s case, many of those assigned to the residence are people of color and have been especially proud to serve America’s first black president and his family.

Trump is expected to follow tradition and stay at Blair House, the government guest house across from the White House, before the inauguration.

But how might he spend his first night at the White House?

Trump is thinking about sleeping in the famed Lincoln Bedroom. He said so during a recent lunch with historian Douglas Brinkley and other guests at Trump’s South Florida club. A guest at the lunch recalled the conversation and Brinkley confirmed its accuracy.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Black Americans weep for the Obama era and uncertain future

On the night in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected the country’s first black president, many black Americans wept. Eight years later, they weep again for the end of an era some thought they would never live to see — and for the uncertain future they face without him.

In Obama, many African-Americans felt they had a leader who celebrated their culture and confronted their concerns. In his wife, Michelle, they saw a national role model who epitomized style and grace with brown skin.

Now some regard the election of his successor as the price of black progress and the culmination of years of racist rhetoric directed at the Obamas — at times stoked by President-elect Donald Trump himself.

“There’s a great deal of melancholy and fear and despair,” said Lester Spence, professor of political science and Africana studies at Johns Hopkins University. “This is a dynamic that the vast majority of black America has only read about or seen in movies. They don’t understand the potential of what’s coming.”

Not all African-Americans are sad to see Obama leaving the White House. But blacks overwhelmingly voted for the president in 2008 and 2012, and fewer than 1 in 10 black voters supported Trump.

For many, the events of the final days of Obama’s presidency added to the sense of gloom.

With his inauguration fast approaching, Trump took to Twitter last week to bash Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights legend who was nearly killed marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Trump said Lewis was “all talk, talk, talk — no action or results.”

On Monday, the president marked his last Martin Luther King Jr. holiday before he himself enters the annals of history. On Friday, he will be replaced by a chief executive who questioned Obama’s birthplace and offended many blacks during his campaign by describing dangerous “inner cities” in need of “law and order.”

Perhaps nowhere was the surreal moment more evident than at the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture, where a sea of black faces gathered to say goodbye and to celebrate a history of struggle and progress.

“This year marks the most significant, most poignant and really the most important Martin Luther King Jr. celebration of my lifetime,” said James Peterson, professor of English and Africana studies at Lehigh University. “There’s never been a clearer case, in terms of presidential politics and the general direction of the country, where King’s edicts are more pertinent than they are now.”

Some in the crowd were descendants of slaves. Some survived segregation. Others were too young to have known anything other than a black president. Many made a deliberate decision to be there on this holiday at the end of a historic presidency.

For black Americans, the museum offers “proximity to black culture, black history and the power of black social movements. You can steel yourself,” Peterson said. “There’s a reason folks will find solace in just being there.”

Throughout the museum are milestones of black suffering and achievement. Watching a video of the 1963 March on Washington, Charles Phillips of Philadelphia worried about whether dark days lay ahead.

“I think we’re going to be in for some bad things,” said Phillips, who wore an Obama T-shirt he bought during the president’s first term. “To come to a place like this, it touches you, to see what we went through — and are hopefully not going to go through in the next four years.”

Looking at an exhibit with photos of a smiling, waving Obama family during the 2008 inauguration, Kim Taylor became emotional. Though she had visited the museum five times since it opened in September, she cried for the first time as she reflected on the progress of the civil rights movement and Obama’s historic presidency.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever have another black president,” said Taylor, of Capitol Heights, Maryland. “I made a point to be here. I just wanted to be a part of history, to have that closeness with other black people.”

Jerrod Lemmons and his wife, Dee, were in town from Waxahachie, Texas, for the weekend, taking their daughter on a college tour of Howard University. But stopping by the museum was also important. Being there during Obama’s last days in the White House was humbling and bittersweet, Jerrod Lemmons said.

His head dropped at the thought of Trump taking office at the end of a week that began with King’s birthday.

“I don’t believe he supports us,” Lemmons said of the president-elect. “He doesn’t see value in who we are as a people.”

Sitting outside of the exhibit on sports, he reflected on African-Americans’ sacrifices, failures and victories.

“It all comes down to: What are we going to do?” Lemmons said. “We all have a responsibility to each other. This museum reminds us exactly of that.”

Jewelle Mason, also visiting from Philadelphia, came to the museum hoping, just maybe, that Obama might show up. He didn’t. But she let out a contented sigh that she was able to be there on King Day, savoring the final days of Obama’s presidency.

“It’s nice to know that now he’s a part of the history,” Mason said. “That’s something they can never take away from us.”

Republished with permission of The Associated press.

Donald Trump steps into security bubble; will he bring his phone?

A few hours after President-elect Donald Trump was briefed by intelligence officials about Russian meddling in the election, an Associated Press reporter called his cellphone seeking an interview.

The call went to voicemail and the reporter did not leave a message. About an hour later, Trump called back.

It’s hard to imagine many politicians — particularly one about to become president of the United States — calling back an unknown number on their cellphone.

With Trump, it’s simply how business gets done, whether he’s fielding calls from real estate partners and longtime friends or foreign leaders and congressional lawmakers in the weeks after the election.

But as Trump prepares to take the oath of office Friday, the future of his ever-present Android smartphone is now a matter of national security. On Thursday, he told a friend that he had given up his phone, as security agencies had urged him to do. It was unclear whether he was following the lead of President Barack Obama, the nation’s first cellphone-toting president, who exchanged his personal device for a Blackberry heavily modified for security purposes.

The friend who spoke with Trump spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity in order to disclose the private conversation.

The presidency has long been a lonely, isolating office, with security concerns keeping the commander in chief at a distance from the public. Under Obama, worries about cyber intrusions — particularly by foreign governments — pulled the president’s technology deeper into the security bubble as well. Many of the functions on Obama’s Blackberry were blocked and only a handful of people had his phone number or email address.

Trump doesn’t email, but he uses his phone to tweet — something he’s made clear he plans to continue in office. He’s known to make calls early in the morning and late at night, often seeking input from multiple sources when making a decision. Sometimes he leaves a voicemail.

Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a friend of the president-elect, described Trump’s phone etiquette, as “just like one of his speeches, it’s very stream of consciousness.”

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., called Trump “amazingly accessible,” saying the president-elect picks up his phone even when he doesn’t know who is calling.

“My phone says, No Caller ID, so I’m not saying that it has anything to do with me,” Corker said. “Nobody knows who it is that’s calling when I’m calling.”

Foreign leaders and diplomats took advantage of Trump’s accessibility in the days after his election as they scrambled to find ways to reach him. Some called into Trump Tower hoping to be transferred to the president-elect’s office. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull got Trump’s cellphone number from the golfer Greg Norman.

Trump’s accessibility can create headaches for his aides, who can’t always control who he’s speaking to or what he’s saying. After actress Meryl Streep blasted Trump during a Golden Globes speech earlier this month, a New York Times reporter called the president-elect at midnight to get a response. Trump’s criticism of Streep dominated the news the following day, overshadowing his team’s planned agenda.

For Obama, getting to use a Blackberry in office was considered a victory. He later switched to an iPhone that allowed him to send and receive email from a limited group of people, surf websites and read the news.

But Obama wasn’t known to use his cellphone to make or receive telephone calls, according to individuals familiar with his technology use. Even senior government officials didn’t have the number and instead reached the president through the White House switchboard.

The president also used the switchboard to place his calls, said the individuals, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

Obama had a phone in his control that he used to tweet, one of the only devices with access to the official presidential Twitter feed due to hacking concerns. But Obama rarely hit “send” on a tweet himself, and never without coordinating it with his staff, the individuals said.

If Trump does get rid of his cellphone, it could end up with a home not far from the White House.

Curators at the Newseum, which chronicles the First Amendment and the evolution of electronic communication, reached out to Trump’s campaign in November about the prospect of acquiring his Android phone. They haven’t heard back, said Carrie Christoffersen, the museum’s curator of collections.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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