Donald Trump revealed multiple personas on the campaign trail. There was the underdog candidate who gleefully campaigned and said whatever he wanted because he had nothing to lose. There was the vengeful brawler who lashed out at his critics in angry rants and early-morning tweet storms. And there was the politician who reluctantly agreed to read scripted speeches and stay off Twitter when he seemed to be losing.
As Trump became the 45th president of the United States on Friday, the world saw glimpses of all three.
Trump started Friday somber and unsmiling. He seemed awkward and uncomfortable as he proceeded through the highly choreographed presidential rites of passage. His inaugural speech brimmed with anger, vowing revenge on elites.
But by early afternoon, as he signed presidential paperwork while surrounded by his adoring family and people who wanted one of the pens he had touched, Trump was again smiling and entertaining the cameras.
He also showed that he could command a room, joking with lawmakers at a luncheon and honoring his former political rival, Hillary Clinton. He seemed happiest as he walked along the parade route late in the day — applauding, pointing, flashing thumbs-up and smiling as the modest-size crowd chanted his name. Gone were the nasty tweets, the name-calling and the habit of adding “believe me” to the end of his sentences.
All day long, Trump was in and out of heavily armored vehicles, in and out of Washington landmarks, visiting the turf of others and trying to figure out where exactly to stand. He was stoic as he emerged in Washington early Friday morning. He moved slowly as he climbed out of a black armored vehicle outside St. John’s Episcopal Church, readjusting his overcoat again and again.
Then he was off to the White House, where he and his wife were greeted by President Barack Obama, whose place of birth Trump once challenged. Melania Trump presented Michelle Obama with a gift in a turquoise box with a white ribbon, the signature look of Tiffany & Co. It was a kind gesture but one that kicked off a game of hot potato as the Obamas didn’t know what to do with the unexpected gift as they prepared to pose for photos. Michelle Obama looked for a place to put it, then tried holding it, then handed it to her husband, who took it inside.
As the cameras clicked, Melania Trump and Michelle Obama embraced. Barack Obama smiled, waved and clapped his replacement on the back. Donald Trump stood there, slightly in front of the others, his coat unbuttoned and his tie off-
Inside, outside, back into an armored vehicle and off to the highlight of the day, the swearing-in ceremony.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the announcer said, “the president-elect of the United States, Donald John Trump.”
The doors opened, and Trump came walking forward, flashing a thumbs-up, mouthing “thank you” and pumping a fist. He kept his head down as he descended the steps. He never showed more than a tight grin.
As Trump waited for his moment, he fidgeted in his seat, nearly as much as his youngest son in the row behind him. Trump whispered to those around him, tapped his fingers, rocked a bit and readjusted his coat. He then took the oath making him the most powerful man in the world and delivered an address that would set the tone for his presidency.
Trump’s vision of America is, as it has been for years, a dark one.
“Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities,” Trump said, looking out at a crowd dotted with his iconic red campaign hats. “Rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation. An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge. And the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. The American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”
Trump stuck closely to his script, ignoring the impulse to add commentary for the enjoyment of his fans — to hurl profanity, gloat about his victories and give his rivals condescending nicknames. He learned to use a teleprompter last summer, delivering a convention speech that was mostly scripted. In the final weeks of the campaign, as Trump’s path to the White House seemed narrower than ever, he hewed to his prepared remarks. His message Friday seemed similarly concise.
Although Trump has stacked his Cabinet with wealthy GOP donors, former bankers and longtime politicos, he dedicated his speech to his movement — to the Americans who see the same problems he sees. He insisted that his win was their win and that they will now become “the rulers of this nation.”
“This is your day,” he said, reading from teleprompters. “This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country.”
Soon after he finished speaking, a series of tweets popped into his feed that echoed his populist message.
At a signing ceremony, his young grandchildren quickly became restless. In addition to formally signing off on his Cabinet nominees, Trump proclaimed a national day of patriotism and signed a waiver to allow retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to become secretary of defense, despite a law that prohibits the position going to recently retired military personnel. Trump cracked jokes as he worked through the pile, handing out pens as he used them.
Then it was off to the inaugural luncheon in Statuary Hall at the Capitol, where he was toasted and presented with gifts.
“I don’t think anybody wants to hear me speak any more today, right?” Trump said, standing at a gold lectern in the shape of an eagle and throwing his hands up in the air with a smile. “So we’ll cut it short.”
He gripped the golden eagle’s wings and recognized his Cabinet members, especially the generals who Trump said look like they came out of “central casting” for a movie. He thanked former president Bill Clinton — whom he had previously accused of sexually abusing women — and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton — whom he had previously promised to lock up — for attending the luncheon. He asked them to stand and enthusiastically applauded them.
“Honestly, there’s nothing more I can say, because I have a lot of respect for those two people,” Trump said. “So thank you all for being here. And we’re going to have four great years, hopefully of peace and prosperity.”
Then it was off to the parade. As the president’s heavily armored Cadillac, nicknamed the Beast for its heavy size, slowly proceeded down the parade route, it stopped three times to let Trump and his family get out and walk.
Trump held his wife’s suede-gloved hand. He waved, did thumbs-up, fist-pumped and applauded along with the crowd. Those along the parade route chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” and “USA! USA! USA!” At the hotel he recently opened on Pennsylvania Avenue, a group of people held up a “thank you” banner.
It was there that Trump finally broke into a broad, toothy smile.