Donald Trump inaugurated as US president

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Donald Trump began the ceremonial events leading up to his swearing-in as the 45th president of the United States, while black-clad activists smashed windows in downtown Washington to protest his inauguration.

Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, will take the oath of office at midday  outside the domed US Capitol, with US Chief Justice John Roberts presiding. Organizers expected crowds of upwards of 900,000 people, including protesters.

Away from the Capitol, masked activists ran through the streets smashing store and car windows. They carried black anarchist flags and signs that said, “Join the resistance, fight back now.” Police used pepper spray and chased them down a major avenue, a Reuters eyewitness reported.

Trump, a Republican, will take power in a country divided after a bitter election campaign. He will set the country on a new, uncertain path at home and abroad.

“It all begins today!” he wrote in a note on Twitter at about 7:30 a.m. “I will see you at 11:00 A.M. for the swearing-in. THE MOVEMENT CONTINUES – THE WORK BEGINS!”

The West Front of the Capitol was teeming with dignitaries for the ceremony, including former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, who was defeated by Trump in the Nov. 8 election. A big cheer rang out from the crowd when she was introduced.

Former presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter were also present with their wives. Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, 92, was in Houston recovering from pneumonia.

Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, began the day attending a prayer service at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House.

Trump, wearing a dark suit and red tie, and his wife, Melania, clad in a classic-styled, powder blue ensemble, then headed into the White House for a meeting with outgoing Democratic President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.

Streets near the president’s home were blocked to traffic by empty buses and dump trucks or temporary pedestrian security checkpoints. Checkpoints around the National Mall in front of the Capitol opened early to begin admitting guests. Some wore red caps bearing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

Trump, 70, took office with work to do to bolster his image. During a testy transition period since his stunning November election win, the wealthy New York businessman and former reality TV star has repeatedly engaged in Twitter attacks against his critics, so much so that one fellow Republican, Senator John McCain, told CNN that Trump seemed to want to “engage with every windmill that he can find.”

An ABC News/Washington Post poll this week found only 40 percent of Americans viewed Trump favourably, the lowest rating for an incoming president since Democrat Carter in 1977, and the same percentage approved of how he has handled the transition.

Trump’s agenda

His ascension to the White House, while welcomed by Republicans tired of Obama’s eight years in office, raises a host of questions for the United States.

Trump campaigned on a pledge to take the country on a more isolationist, protectionist path and has vowed to impose a 35 percent tariff on goods on imports from US companies that went abroad.

His desire for warmer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and threats to cut funding for North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations has allies from Britain to the Baltics worried that the traditional US security umbrella will be diminished.

In the Middle East, Trump has said he wants to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, at the risk of angering Arabs and stirring international concern. He has yet to sketch out how he plans to carry out a campaign pledge to “knock the hell out of” Islamic State militants.

The inaugural festivities may have a more partisan edge than usual, given Trump’s scorching campaign and continuing confrontations between him and Democrats over his take-no-prisoners Twitter attacks and pledge to roll back many of Obama’s policies.

More than 60 Democratic lawmakers plan to stay away from the proceedings to protest Trump, spurred on after he derided US Representative John Lewis of Georgia, a hero of the civil rights movement, for calling him an illegitimate president.

Thousands of anti-Trump protesters were expected among the inauguration crowd and many demonstrators will participate in a “Women’s March on Washington” on Saturday. Protests are also planned in other cities in the United States and abroad.

Trump, whose November victory stunned the world, will start his presidency with a 20-minute inaugural address that he has been writing himself with the help of top aides.

“It will be optimistic. It will be visionary, but it’s going to be philosophical,” his spokesman, Sean Spicer, told NBC on Friday.

Keith Kidwell, chairman of the Republican Party in Beaufort County, North Carolina, was among the crowds on Friday, eager to see the start of the Trump presidency.

“I cling to my guns and my Bible. I’ve been waiting a long eight years for this day,” said Kidwell, adding he initially supported US Senator Ted Cruz to be the Republican presidential nominee but was now squarely behind Trump.

Quick action

Trump’s to-do list has given Republicans hope that, since they also control the US Congress, they can quickly repeal and replace Obama’s signature healthcare law, approve sweeping tax reform and roll back many federal regulations they say are stifling the US economy.

“He’s going to inject a shock to the system here almost immediately,” Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told Fox News.

Democrats, in search of firm political footing after the unexpected defeat of Hillary Clinton, are planning to fight him at every turn. They deeply oppose Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric from the campaign trail and plans to build a wall along the southern US border with Mexico.

Trump’s critics have been emboldened to attack his legitimacy because his win came in the Electoral College, which gives smaller states more clout in the outcome. He lost the popular vote to Clinton by about 2.9 million.

“Any time you don’t win the popular vote but you win by the Electoral College it makes people come unglued,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. “It angers people that somebody can win the popular vote but you’re not president.”

Trump’s critics also point to the conclusion of US intelligence agencies that Russia used hacking and other methods during the campaign to try to tilt the election in the Republican’s favour. The president-elect has acknowledged the finding – denied by Moscow – that Russia was behind the hacking but said it did not affect the outcome of the election.

To his critics – including Obama who during the campaign called Trump temperamentally unfit for the White House – his straight talk can be jarring, especially when expressed in tweets. His supporters, many of them working-class whites, see Trump as a refreshingly anti-establishment figure who eschews political correctness.

“He’s here for the working man” supporter Adam Coletti of Plainfield, Connecticut, said as he headed toward the inauguration.