WASHINGTON ― Donald Trump officially became the 45th president Friday, painting a portrait of an “American carnage” in an address as gloomy as the gray chill that hung over his inaugural.
With a light rain falling, Trump followed his oath of office with promises to rescue the country from its woes and calls for unity tinged in authoritarian tones.
“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other,” Trump said. “We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.”
Trump’s speech took only 16 minutes, short for an inaugural address, and suggested that his presidency would take the same tone as his campaign: attacks against the Washington establishment laced with vows to limit foreign involvement, protect American jobs from foreign trade, rebuild roads and bridges, and make the government more responsive to everyday citizens.
One of his first official actions, though, was to issue an order for the Department of Health and Human Services to interpret Obamacare regulations in ways that could undermine the health care program. The Department of Housing and Urban Development was immediately instructed to cancel a newly instituted decrease in mortgage fees that would have saved first-time borrowers about $500 a year. And the Justice Department, hours after Trump was sworn in, ordered a delay in a Texas voting rights case.
Trump also formally nominated his Cabinet choices so the Senate can vote on them, as well as signed into law a waiver that Congress had passed to permit his pick for defense secretary to take the post despite not having been retired from the military the required seven years. (The Senate followed up later by confirming retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis to lead the Pentagon and confirming John Kelly, also a retired Marine Corps general, to run the Department of Homeland Security.)
Earlier in the day, following the traditional luncheon with members of Congress at the Capitol, Trump and his wife and new first lady, Melania, rode down Pennsylvania Avenue at the head of the inaugural parade, ending at the White House.
The parade itself drew a smaller than expected crowd, with entire stands along the route empty. The inaugural festivities were similarly more lightly attended than previous ones, with plenty of empty spaces on stretches of the Mall that had been packed for previous inaugurations.
Just a few blocks to the north, meanwhile, protesters opposing Trump gathered by the thousands. Some turned violent, smashing store windows and setting small fires. Police reported nearly 100 arrests and said a handful of officers had suffered minor injuries.
Among the protesters was Mary Lou Dicken, 68, from a county in Maryland that supported Trump. She does not like the trade agreement that she believes sent her garment factory job to Latin America, but she said she could not support Trump.
“The man is so vile that regardless of his policies I couldn’t have voted for him,” Dicken said. “I don’t care what things he was going to offer me or anyone else.”
For the several hundred thousand Trump supporters who converged on the capital, though, his presidency offers a promise for improvements in their own lives.
“The energy and the positive that he gives to the country, the positive outlook, bringing jobs, creating jobs, bringing them back from other countries, health care,” said Paul Borkman, who drove from Greensburg, Indiana, with his four adult sons, and who watched the festivities with them in matching black Bass Pro Shop ponchos.
Trump was clearly aiming at the outside-of-Washington constituency in his speech, which attacked establishment leaders as aggressively as he did during the campaign.
“Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed,” Trump said from the steps of the Capitol. “The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs, and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.”
“What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again,” Trump said.
Inaugural addresses often attempt a unifying theme that brings the nation together. But Trump, as he has largely done since his Nov. 8 election, instead continued with the ideas he pushed during his campaign: that the nation’s leaders had ignored its people, that the military had been weakened, and that bad trade policies had stolen the country’s wealth.
“One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world. But that is the past and now we are looking only to the future,” Trump said.
Trump closed his speech the same way he did most of his rallies: “Together we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And, yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you and God bless America! Thank you. God bless America.”
This story has been updated to include information about Trump’s executive orders.
Daniel Marans and Jessica Schulberg contributed to this report.