Updated at 9:51 a.m. | Washington is undergoing a major transformation, but Donald Trump’s inauguration brings more questions than answers.
To be sure, very little is known about what to expect from his much-anticipated inaugural address from the West Front of the Capitol. His top spokesman has promised a “personal” speech that is “unique” while laying out a vision for his presidency.
The feel inside the Capitol on Friday morning was one of, as Trump might describe it, low energy. Outside on the West Front, early arrivers sat in a drizzle amid chilly temperatures. The security presence inside the building was less than that of other major events just hours before the sitting and incoming commanders in chief are set to arrive.
At the White House, President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle welcomed the Trumps for a tea reception. The handover of power began with an awkward moment, when Obama was left holding a gift from Melania Trump without an aide nearby to usher it away so the couple could pose for a picture in front of saluting Marines on the executive mansion’s North Portico. Obama ducked inside briefly, where an aide took the gift inside.
Moving trucks have been spotted outside the White House for several weeks as the outgoing president and his family began transitioning out of the executive mansion. On Friday morning, trucks are expected to swoop in with Trump’s personal belongings. Already on Thursday, pictures of the Obamas that had hung on West Wing walls had been removed.
Trump traversed the country for months vowing to use his first day in office to roll back Obama-era policies and laws. But this week, his team announced that his first day, and the two after that, will be reserved for “celebration.” The incoming president might envision a low-key first few days, but he has plenty to do.
For instance, he has only nominated 30 individuals to fill 660 government posts that require Senate confirmation. What’s more, he has recalled every single Obama ambassador, meaning those typical holdovers won’t be there to communicate with their counterparts should a crisis break out in those countries.
In the judicial system, there are 114 vacancies to fill, including a Supreme Court justice, thanks largely to the glacial pace the Senate took in confirming nominees during the 114th Congress.
Even members of his own party have questions. Republicans acknowledge that it is not clear if all of his policy views align with the party’s traditional platform. The incoming president appears more in line with Democrats on some issues, including his call for a massive — and expensive — infrastructure plan. He also wants to keep entitlement program as is, but GOP lawmakers want to overhaul things like Medicare and Medicaid.
What’s more, sources say he will take office with a skeleton White House staff. But Sean Spicer, the incoming White House communications director and press secretary, assured reporters on Thursday that the Trump administration is ready to take over around noon.
“There’s a difference between enacting an agenda and making sure if there’s … an attack or some kind of weather incident that occurs where … departments have to be called into action to support the American people, we’re ready to go,” he said. “Make no mistake, … we’re ready to go at 12:01 tomorrow.”
The president, who reportedly has given up his personal smartphone to security personnel, began his Inauguration Day, fittingly, with a tweet.
It all begins today! I will see you at 11:00 A.M. for the swearing-in. THE MOVEMENT CONTINUES – THE WORK BEGINS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 20, 2017