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Sean Spicer cites ‘studies’ to back Donald Trump voter claim

The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times local):

2 p.m.

A spokesman says President Donald Trump’s belief that there were millions of illegal votes cast in the November election is based on “studies and evidence.”

But spokesman Sean Spicer did not provide examples of that evidence.

Trump first made the false claim during the transition. He reiterated the statement in a meeting Monday night with lawmakers, blaming illegal ballots for his loss of the popular vote.

Spicer says Trump “continues to maintain that belief.” There has been no evidence to support the claims that there was widespread voter fraud in the election.

Spicer’s only attempt to support Trump’s assertion was to point a 2008 Pew Research survey that showed a need to update voter registration systems.

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1:55 p.m.

An Agriculture Department research agency has banned the release of news releases, photos and other material to the public.

In a memo to employees at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, chief of staff Sharon Drumm said the agency would immediately cease releasing any “public-facing” documents.

“This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content,” read the email memo obtained by The Associated Press.

A statement released by ARS spokesman Christopher Bentley said the agency “values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public as we strive to find solutions to agricultural problems affecting America.”

The statement said some material would still be available on the agency’s website.

Buzzfeed News first reported the memo.

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1:50 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump has accepted House Speaker Paul Ryan‘s invitation to address a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28.

Ryan announced the invitation on Tuesday and informed reporters after a meeting with House Republicans. Ryan had met with Trump Monday night at the White House. Trump also met with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders on Monday.

Trump was meeting Tuesday at the White House with top Senate leaders.

The speech will be Trump’s first to Congress. He was sworn into office on Friday.

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12:45 p.m.

The Trump administration has instituted a media blackout at the Environmental Protection Agency and barred staff from awarding any new contracts or grants.

Emails sent to EPA staff since President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday and reviewed by The Associated Press detailed the specific prohibitions banning press releases, blog updates or posts to the agency’s social media accounts.

The Trump administration has also ordered a “temporary suspension” of all new business activities at the department, including issuing task orders or work assignments to EPA contractors. The orders are expected to have a significant and immediate impact on EPA activities nationwide.

The EPA did not respond to phone calls and emails requesting comment Monday or Tuesday.

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12:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump is hanging up some new art in the White House press area — and it’s none too subtle.

The panoramic photo shows the crowds gathered near the U.S. Capitol for Trump’s inauguration on Friday. It’s a nod to the ongoing interest the president has in making it clear that his event was well-attended.

Trump tweeted: “A photo delivered yesterday that will be displayed in the upper/lower press hall. Thank you Abbas!” For emphasis, the official Twitter account of the president retweeted the @realDonaldTrump message. The photo was taken by Washington-area photographer Abbas Shirmohammadi, and it notes the wrong date — Jan. 21, although it does appear to depict the correct event.

Trump and press secretary Sean Spicer have taken pains to play up the crowd size, sometimes exaggerating the number in attendance. They’ve excoriated the media for what they said is an effort to downplay enthusiasm for Trump’s inauguration.

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11:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump has taken steps to streamline the permitting process for manufacturing.

He also wants pipelines to be made in the U.S. and an expedited process for environmental reviews and approvals.

The steps came as Trump signed executive actions to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. Former President Barack Obama blocked construction in late 2015 of the Keystone line from Canada to the U.S. Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers is studying alternative routes for the Dakota Access pipeline.

Trump describes the regulatory process as a “tangled up mess.” He says if the answer is no, it should be a quick no. If the answer is yes, Trump says “let’s start building.”

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11:35 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he will announce his pick to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat sometime next week.

Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he’ll be “making my decision this week” and “we’ll be announcing it next week.”

“We have some outstanding candidates,” the president said. “And we’ll pick a truly great Supreme Court justice.”

The Supreme Court has only had eight justices since Justice Antonin Scalia died last year. President Barack Obama nominated a replacement but Republicans in the Senate refused to bring the choice up for a vote.

During his campaign, Trump publicly identified nearly two dozen candidates for the vacancy.

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11:25 a.m.

President Donald Trump has signed executive actions to advance the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.

Trump tells reporters in the Oval Office that the moves on the pipelines will be subject to the terms and conditions being renegotiated by the U.S.

President Barack Obama killed the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in late 2015, saying it would hurt American efforts to reach a global climate change deal.

The pipeline would run from Canada to U.S. refineries in the Gulf Coast. The U.S. government needs to approve the pipeline because it crossed the border.

The Army decided last year to explore alternate routes for the Dakota pipeline after the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters said the pipeline threatened drinking water and Native American cultural sites.

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10:50 a.m.

FBI Director James Comey is staying in his job. A Justice Department memo lists him among officials remaining in their positions.

FBI directors are appointed to 10-year terms intended to carry across presidential administrations, even when a new party takes over the White House.

President Donald Trump criticized the FBI during the campaign for its decision not to recommend charges against his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. But he also appeared to warmly greet Comey at a law enforcement gathering over the weekend.

Comey is in his fourth year in the job.

The New York Times first reported that Comey would stay on.

The director’s job has been a 10-year term since 1976. Since then, only one has been removed prematurely — Reagan appointee William Sessions by Bill Clinton in 1993.

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9:48 a.m.

President Donald Trump is expected to take executive action Tuesday to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.

That’s according to a person with knowledge of the action. The president is scheduled to sign orders at the White House late Tuesday morning.

Former President Barack Obama killed the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in late 2015, declaring it would have undercut U.S. efforts to clinch a global climate change deal that was a centerpiece of his environmental legacy. The pipeline would run from Canada to U.S. refineries in the Gulf Coast. The U.S. government needed to approve the pipeline because it crossed the border.

The Army decided last year to explore alternate routes for the Dakota pipeline after the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters said the pipeline threatened drinking water and Native American cultural sites.

The person with knowledge of the decisions insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to confirm the moves ahead of a formal announcement.

-By Julie Pace

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9:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he’s an environmentalist.

The president made the comments Tuesday at a breakfast with auto industry executives.

He didn’t elaborate on why he sees himself as an environmentalist, but the comments came after urging companies from the auto industry and beyond to bring jobs back to the U.S.

On Monday, he made similar comments at a business breakfast, stating, again without elaborating, “I’m a very big person when it comes to the environment. I have received awards on the environment.”

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9:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump is spending the morning meeting with auto executives as part of his push to bring jobs back to the U.S.

Trump told his guests Tuesday at the White House that he’s looking to ease regulations to help auto companies and any other businesses wishing to do business in the U.S.

Among the attendees of the breakfast are Ford Motor Co. chief executive Mark Fields, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and General Motors chief executive Mary Barra.

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3:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump’s efforts to build bridges and push through his agenda have been overshadowed once again with his continued fixation on the election and more false claims.

During a bipartisan reception with lawmakers at the White House late Monday, Trump claimed the reason he’d lost the popular vote to his Democratic rival was that 3 million to 5 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally had voted.

That’s according to a Democratic aide familiar with the exchange who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting. There is no evidence to support Trump’s claim.

Trump on Tuesday will continue his outreach efforts as he meets with executives from the auto industry and speaks by phone with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

White House press secretary: ‘Our intention is never to lie’

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told a roomful of reporters that “our intention is never to lie to you,” although sometimes the Trump administration may “disagree with the facts.”

Spicer’s first full press briefing was closely watched Monday following a weekend statement about President Donald Trump‘s inauguration audience that included incorrect assertions. After White House counselor Kellyanne Conway received wide social media attention for her explanation that Spicer had presented “alternative facts,” Monday’s briefing was televised live on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and, for a time, even ABC.

Meanwhile, ABC announced that anchor David Muir would interview Trump for a one-hour prime-time special to air at 10 p.m. EST Wednesday.

Spicer tried to defuse tension by opening with a self-deprecating joke about his lack of popularity, and his 78-minute session was wide-ranging and mostly substantive. He corrected one disputed statement from Saturday, defended another and expressed some frustration regarding how the new Trump administration feels about its news coverage.

Asked for a pledge not to lie, Spicer assented, saying, “I believe we have to be honest with the American people.” He said he had received incorrect information about Inauguration day ridership on the Washington Metro system when he initially claimed the system was used more Friday than for Barack Obama‘s 2013 inauguration.

“There are times when you tweet something out or write a story and you publish a correction,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you were trying to deceive readers or the American people, does it? I think we should be afforded the same opportunity.”

Spicer didn’t back down from his claim that Trump’s inauguration was the most-seen ever, clarifying that he was including people who watched online. The ceremony didn’t have the highest TV ratings and aerial photographs indicate the live crowd wasn’t as big as it was for Obama’s first swearing-in, but there are no reliable crowd estimates or numbers indicating how many people across the world watched the ceremony online.

He expressed frustration about an erroneous report, later corrected, stating that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from a room in the White House following Trump’s inauguration.

“Where was the apology to the president of the United States?” Spicer said. “Where was the apology to the millions of people who thought that it was racially insensitive?”

One reporter said Spicer had accepted an apology from the news outlet that made the mistake in a pool report.

Spicer would not say whether he was ordered by Trump or other staffers to make Saturday’s statement, but explained some of the thinking that went into it. Like countless White House staffs before them, the Trump team is exasperated about “negative” and “demoralizing” coverage.

“When we’re right, say we’re right,” he said. “When we’re wrong, say we’re wrong. But it’s not always wrong and negative.”

Spicer broke with the White House tradition of opening briefings with a question from The Associated Press. The AP was traditionally given the first question because it is a broad-based news cooperative that represents the largest swath of American newspapers, broadcasters and other kinds of news organizations.

Instead, Spicer initially called on a reporter from the New York Post, and he took questions from several news organizations that were rarely called on during the previous administration. He said four seats in the briefing room would be kept open for out-of-town reporters to participate via Skype.

The new press secretary — who took no questions Saturday — drew a laugh when he said he’d stay at the podium for as long as the reporters wanted him there, and he nearly did.

“I want to make sure we have a healthy relationship,” he said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Jared Moskowitz files resolution condemning U.N. Security Council Israeli settlement vote

A South Florida Democrat has filed a resolution calling on the Florida House to stand with Congress in its condemnation of the United Nations.

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat, filed a resolution (HR 281) last week objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334.

“The passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 undermined the long-standing position of the United States to oppose and veto United Nation Security Council resolutions that seek to impose solutions to final-status issues or are one sided and anti Israel, reversing decades of bipartisan agreement,” reads the proposed House resolution. “The passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution undermines the prospect of Israelis and Palestinians resuming productive, direct, bilateral negotiations.”

In December, then-President Barack Obama’s administration abstained from a U.N. Security Council resolution that called Israeli settlements on land claimed by Palestinians a violation of international law. The U.S. had used its veto power to block similar measures in the past.

Days later, the GOP led U.S. House passed a resolution calling for the repeal of the resolution. The vote, according to the Washington Post, reflected the bipartisan nature of Congress’s support for Israel.

Moskowitz’s proposal will likely find bipartisan support in the Florida House as well. In 2016, a bill requiring the State Board of Administration to identify companies it does business with that are boycotting Israel overwhelmingly passed both the House (112-2) and the Senate (38-0). Moskowitz carried that bill in the Florida House.

“The United Nations has proven time and again that it lacks the ability to be an impartial mediator when it comes to issues of the state of Israel. The fact that one of the most holy sites of the Jewish people, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, is considered occupied territory under the terms of UNSCR 2334 is just the most egregious example of this continuing bias,” said Moskowitz in a statement. “I have no doubt that if any other holy site in the world was considered occupied territory, other nations around the world would be outraged, and rightly so. I urge my colleagues to support this resolution expressing our disappointment in the United States decision to break from long-standing tradition of allowing the two sides to negotiate independently towards a viable two-state solution and to reaffirm Florida’s continuing friendship with the Israeli people.”

Fact Check: Donald Trump overstates crowd size at inaugural

President associated Donald Trump‘s speech Saturday at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency turned into the latest battle in, as he put it, his “running war with the media.” He had two central complaints: that the media misrepresented the size of the crowd at his inauguration and that it was incorrectly reported a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. was removed from the Oval Office. A look at those assertions:

TRUMP: “I made a speech. I looked out. The field was — it looked like a million, a million and a half people.”

The president went on to say that one network “said we drew 250,000 people. Now that’s not bad. But it’s a lie.” He then claimed that were 250,000 right by the stage and the “rest of the, you know, 20-block area, all the way back to the Washington Monument was packed.”

“So we caught them,” said Trump. “And we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.”

THE FACTS: Trump is wrong. Photos of the National Mall from his inauguration make clear that the crowd did not extend to the Washington Monument. Large swaths of empty space are visible on the Mall.

Thin crowds and partially empty bleachers also dotted the inaugural parade route. Hotels across the District of Columbia reported vacancies, a rarity for an event as large as a presidential inauguration.

And ridership on the Washington’s Metro system didn’t match that of recent inaugurations.

As of 11 a.m. that day, there were 193,000 trips taken, according to the transit service’s Twitter account. At the same hour eight years ago, there had been 513,000 trips. Four years later, there were 317,000 for Obama‘s second inauguration. There were 197,000 at 11 a.m. in 2005 for President George W. Bush‘s second inauguration.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer later added to the misstatements.

Spicer claimed that it was the first time white “floor coverings” were used to protect the grass on the National Mall and that it drew attention to any empty space. But the same tarp was used four years ago.

Spicer also said it was “the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the Mall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past.”

The Secret Service says that this was the first time security fencing was installed around the National Mall for an inauguration. To get onto the Mall, people were required to go through one of seven checkpoints where their bags were checked, but there were no magnetometers used at those checkpoints.

A law enforcement official not authorized to publicly discuss the inauguration says officials were “not aware of any issues with flow rate in and around the National Mall.”

Spicer then said, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe.”

He offered no evidence and there is no immediate way to confirm such a claim.

But photo taken during Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration showed substantially more people on the Mall. It is not known how many people watched the ceremony on television around the globe. In the U.S., Nielsen estimates 31 million viewers watched TV coverage, but that’s less than Barack Obama’s and Ronald Reagan‘s first inaugurations.

The exact size of the crowd Friday may never be known. The National Park Service stopped providing estimates in the 1990s.

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TRUMP: The president also went after a reporter who incorrectly wrote that the president had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office. The reporter later acknowledged the error, saying a Secret Service agent and a door had obstructed his view of the bust when reporters were allowed into the room briefly after Trump’s swearing in.

“But this is how dishonest the media is,” Trump said.

“Now, big story, the retraction was like, where?” he asked. “Was it a line or do they even bother running it?”

THE FACTS: Trump is right. The reporter for Time magazine made an error. The White House said Trump never removed the King bust from the Oval Office.

The error about the bust was first transmitted in a pool report distributed among reporters. The White House often uses a pool system when not all reporters who want to attend an event can be accommodated in a space.

At 7:30 p.m., reporter Zeke Miller wrote a pool report saying, “The MLK bust was no longer on display.”

Once Miller realized his error, an update was sent to the pool. “The MLK bust remains in the Oval Office, in addition to the Churchill bust, per a WH aide. It was apparently obscured by a door and an agent during the spray. Your pool offers sincerest apologies.”

Miller also corrected the error on Twitter, and Time magazine corrected its story based on his report.

Republish 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.

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.

On Barack Obama’s last day in office, Ed Narain gives thanks to what he accomplished

Although Friday has been a tough and day for Democrats around the country, former Florida state representative Ed Narain says he chooses to be happy as he celebrates the end of Barack Obama‘s eight year administration. That’s because, Narain writes, after Jesse Jackson failed to win the White House during his two tries in the 1980’s, he believed that he would never see a black man attain the highest office in the land, but Obama proved him and so many others wrong.

“On this day eight years ago my friends and I stood freezing on the National Mall to witness the shattering of a ceiling we had literally been taught would never be broken and it inspired us to live up to the fullest of our potential because truly just like him, we could too,” Narain wrote in a statement he issued out on Friday. “For many, most of our children have been born during a time when the leader of the free world looked just like them. No one can tell than that they can’t or they won’t because of their skin color (though we still have ceilings to break with gender).”

Like Obama, Narain also no longer holds public office, after narrowly losing his bid for the state Senate District 19 seat to Darryl Rouson. Although sidelined for the moment, most political observers predict the 40-year-old New York city native will return again to political office.

Here’s his statement in full:

While today is a sad day for some, I choose to be happy. I’m not happy because President Obama’s tenure is over. I’m happy because like a good relationship that comes to an expected end, I’m glad we had this time together.
In 1984, Jesse Jackson’s “Keep Hope Alive” mantra was so inspiring to this then eight year old. Four years later, when he wasn’t chosen to be the Vice Presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket, I was disappointed but not discouraged that America wasn’t ready to accept an African American as one of its standard bearers.
In 1993, a teacher told my classmates and I that we would never see a Black President in our lifetime. She said that a woman would be first and eventually our grandkids would see a Black president. I don’t think she said this because she was prejudiced, I think it was because in her life experience, the country just hadn’t changed enough to accept people who looked like me in political leadership. Maybe because I was no longer a child but on that day, I stopped believing it would happen in our lifetime.
This is why President Barack Obama’s election meant so much to so many. “Yes We Can” was the fulfillment of the “hope” Jesse asked us to keep alive. For Gen Xers like me, it meant our natural sense of skepticism could finally give way to the possibility that people could be fair and America would live up to its promise of opportunity for all, regardless of how stupid, superficial factors of race and gender often divide us.
On this day eight years ago my friends and I stood freezing on the National Mall to witness the shattering of a ceiling we had literally been taught would never be broken and it inspired us to live up to the fullest of our potential because truly just like him, we could too
For many, most of our children have been born during a time when the leader of the free world looked just like them. No one can tell than that they can’t or they won’t because of their skin color (though we still have ceilings to break with gender)
So while I’m sad to see him leave I’m happy because his legacy is greater than just political accomplishments or ground breaking legislation. I’m thankful for what his time in the White House represented.
For an older generation he was the fulfillment of a “dream” that millions were unfairly locked out of participating in.For my generation, he was the inspiration that gave permission to believe in achieving the impossible.
For our children’s generation, he is not a Black President; just “The President” and that is the legacy of hope and equality we must all work hard to keep aliv
Thank you Mr. President. You have meant and still mean so much.
Today I choose to be happy.
– Ed

At Inauguration watch party in North Tampa, great expectations for a Trump presidency

Approximately three dozen Donald Trump supporters cheered incessantly at a Beef O’Brady’s in North Tampa on Friday morning, before, during and after the longtime New York real estate mogul was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

“We did this,” exclaimed Terry Castro, a co-chair with the Trump campaign in north Hillsborough County, immediately after the swearing-in ceremony.

“These are all the people who worked in the north Hillsborough Trump office and helped us make this day come true,” added co-chair Rebecca DoBoer.

“It’s all about the people,” DoBoer continued, echoing a theme of the Republican’s inaugural address. “Whether they’re Democrats or Republicans. It’s a movement of people who want to turn back to the days when we had great jobs and everyone could succeed.”

Trump’s signature campaign theme of making America “great again,” was definitely what many in the bar believed will come true over the next four and possibly eight years.

“I’m excited for America to be wonderful again,” said Tampa resident Peggy Kienzle. When pressed about what that actually means, she harkened back to her youth.

“I think of the 50’s and 60’s when I was growing up. I remember every man going to work every day as proud Americans. Patriotism,” she recounted. “It was the 1960’s with JFK. There was so much pride in this country and what we stood for. I am still very proud to be an American and always will be, but I am really anxious to see where he can take our country.”

59-year-old Tampa citizen Charles Harris also invoked the past in discussing Trump’s appeal. “We need the leadership that we once had in the 1960’s when we had a backbone and we had a military readiness that we used to have and I think we need to be more prepared and I think we need to just get back to our goal as being the most powerful nation on the face of the earth,” he said, adding, “this country has lost respect in every other avenue on this earth. Other countries used to respect us, even the terrorists knew not to mess with us, but now that may change and we may get that respect back.”

Although some have questioned Trump’s bonafides when it comes to how spiritual he actually is, some in the audience at the family friendly sports bar said they celebrated his faith.

“I think he’s a real Christian,” said Rita Lynn. “I think that’s very important that we depend on God to tell us and guide us on what to do. ”

“The thing that I’m most impressed about actually is that he’s a Christian man and he loves America, and you can see it in everything that he does,” added Kienzle.

When pressed about what specifically they hope that Trump accomplishes in office, several people in the multiracial crowd said they wanted him to eliminate what they said were way too many regulations promulgated during the Obama administration that they claim are strangling U.S. businesses.

“This country has always been where one where people with ideas can risk and build a future for themselves and their family, and the abundance of this country has come out of people who were willing to question, challenge and create, and you have a man coming out of the private sector who knows just how devastating regulations are,” said Bill Luria, 70. A practicing physician, Luria is excited to see the Affordable Care Act wither away, saying whatever the replacement turns out will “be a massive improvement.”

Tampa resident Aaron Bergman says he personally doesn’t care about the Republican Party. He says the problem is that the U.S. government is of and for Washington and not of and for the people, and says he truly believes that the new president will “drain the swamp.”

Bergman celebrates Trump as a “once in a lifetime candidate because he’s not beholden” to anyone – special interests, the political parties, or the media.

“The media did everything in their power to destroy him, and it failed,” he says.

Many of the Trump supporters qualified their statements by acknowledging that as happy as they were on Friday, half the nation was equally unhappy, if not downright despondent about the fact that the Republican Party will control all levers of the federal government for the first time in a decade.

And while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and congressional Republicans dug in early to thwart Barack Obama in his administration,  St. Petersburg resident Tyler Prince says that Republican rank and file members did view the now former president with an open mind, and he’s asking for the same consideration for the new one.

“Just give the guy a chance,” he said. “Eight years ago I didn’t protest. It was a tough time for us. We gave Obama a chance, so we hope that everybody does the same for Trump.”

However with more than 60 congressional Democrats boycotting or simply sitting out the inauguration, and with protests planned in hundreds of cities across the country on Saturday, that idea remains uncertain at this time.

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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.