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Inauguration Day 2017: The View From The White House, Mall


It is Inauguration Day here in Washington, D.C., and we just saw President-elect Donald Trump. He has just left Blair House, which is just near the White House. He spent the night there last night, and he is on his way to church now. Let's go to the White House right near Blair House. NPR's Scott Horsley is on the line.

Scott, good morning.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So a lot of ceremony - we're seeing President-elect Trump head to church, of course, the big moment - the swearing in at the Capitol. There are crowds of supporters who are already there. But we should talk about the agenda because there's a lot that Donald Trump could do literally within hours of being sworn in.

HORSLEY: Well, that's right. He has a busy schedule ahead of him. He's hoping to reverse a lot of what the Obama agenda accomplished over the last eight years. It's not clear whether he's going to jump right into that this afternoon or maybe wait until Monday. But lots of ceremonial stuff filling the morning and early afternoon today. He's, as you say, just stepped into a black SUV for a very short motorcade across Lafayette Square...

GREENE: Short drive. Could walk, but with security, you know, you understand why you have to drive over there probably.

HORSLEY: ...Heading to St. John's Episcopal Church for a service this morning. There is a guest pastor, a Southern Baptist, Robert Jeffress from Dallas who's going to preach this morning from the book of Nehemiah, the wall-builder. And the sermon is titled When God Chooses a Leader.

GREENE: Wow, OK. Well, that is part of the symbolism of the day, I guess, for people to interpret. Well, Scott Horsley at the White House, we'll come back to you throughout the morning.

HORSLEY: Good to be here.


And - thanks, Scott. So now we're going to go down to the Washington Mall, to the National Mall. NPR's Pam Fessler is down there. She has been monitoring things. There are, of course, a lot of supporters down there. But there are also a few protesters.

Pam, what are you seeing?

PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: Well, if you could hear, all of a sudden there's a loud roar of Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump. But...

MARTIN: Pam Fessler was there on the Mall reporting on what she was seeing. It appeared to be a rally where people were supporting Trump saying Trump, Trump, Trump. Obviously, things are intensifying down there on the Mall.

Pam, what can you tell us about what's going on down there? Things are getting a little heated? People feeling more animated down there?

FESSLER: Right. I'm on a line with probably about 500 or 600 people waiting to get through the security checkpoint to the parade route. I would say most of the people here are Trump protesters, a lot of people holding up signs saying that they are not supportive of the president-elect. And at one point, somebody held up a big sign that said fake 45. Half the crowd cheered, then the other half started saying Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump.

Some of these protesters have been here for hours. They're waiting to go to - there's going to be a rally along the parade route that's...


FESSLER: ...Being sponsored by a group called ANSWER Coalition.

MARTIN: These people, Pam, are all in the same proximity. It's not like they're being separated with supporters inside a different perimeter. They're all kind of together. And thus, it's a little bit tense.

FESSLER: Exactly. I actually wouldn't call it tense. You know, actually, the mood seems to be pretty...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Yelling) Adrienne.

FESSLER: ...Jubilant, you could say. As I say, a lot of these protesters have come from long distances. I'm here with one woman, a young woman, 24-year-old Terina Keller...


FESSLER: ...From Boston. And she came down very early this morning. Maybe you can tell us.

KELLER: Yeah, so I came on a charter bus from Boston. And we left at 10 at night, got here at 5 in the morning. And we are leaving tonight and getting back to Boston at around 3 a.m. So two nights on a bus, but it's definitely worth it.

FESSLER: Why is it worth it? What are you hoping to achieve?

KELLER: Well, I would really like to just stand up for not only my rights but the rights of other marginalized groups. I stand here as a low-income minority woman, Mexican and black. And I stand here for my own rights and knowing that discrimination in America, as well as inequality, has been going on for a long time, not only for people who are similar to my demographics but as well as others, including LGBTQ community, those with mental health disabilities, as well as other marginalized groups that I can't mention them all because there are so many.

And the inequality that's going on here and that came out during this election definitely needs to be stood up against, and I definitely show the opposing side.

FESSLER: OK. Thanks a lot. I would say that Terina's pretty representative of the people who are here. As I - right now as we're speaking, I can just see signs all around me, a lot of them showing him affectionately with Vladimir Putin (laughter). The other ones I...

MARTIN: Which has obviously been controversial in the last couple of months.

FESSLER: I see another one where a woman's saying I stand with my Muslim brothers and sisters. That's another big issue among the people here.

MARTIN: Yeah, we also - we're going to turn now - Pam, thank you so much. Pam Fessler is down on the Mall where she's been talking with supporters and protesters on this Inauguration Day.

MARTIN: We're going to turn back to Scott Horsley who is at the White House.

So Scott, we just heard Pam there talking with supporters but also some protesters. We should note there's a large protest that is scheduled to take place tomorrow. So this president, coming into office with historically low approval ratings at this moment.

HORSLEY: Obviously, Donald Trump continues to be a polarizing figure, a lightning rod. And you're seeing that reflected in the crowds for him and against him on the Mall today.

GREENE: Scott, it's just capturing this day. I mean, there is so much ceremony and history and a schedule that literally is scheduled down to the minute all surrounding a man who is famous for speaking off the cuff and kind of hating a teleprompter. I mean, it just seems so fascinating, something like we haven't seen at one of these inaugurations in maybe a long time.

HORSLEY: And we're told that Donald Trump has written out his own remarks. They're going to be shorter than, I think, a lot of inaugural speeches. But it'll be interesting to hear what he has to say, if there is any change in tone. When we heard him at the concert yesterday, he was still very much sort of in campaign mode. It'll be interesting to see if he adopts a different tone for the inaugural address today.

GREENE: And Scott, we spoke a little earlier. You were describing that there is a change in the photographs already taking place at the White House, which is so symbolic, it seems.

HORSLEY: It's sort of a half change. There are large photographs that usually show President Obama and the first family on their travels or events here at the White House that lined the corridor just outside the Oval Office. And those have all been taken down now. The empty frames are still hanging there waiting for, presumably, new photos of the new president and sort of the new story that's going to be told when Donald Trump is sworn in.

MARTIN: OK. NPR's Scott Horsley reporting there from the White House, a place in suspended animation, as you have put it as we await the next president of the United States. Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president. You can stay with us for all the inauguration coverage. Watch it at npr.org. Of course, you can listen here and to your local public radio station. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues.
Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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