Trump’s message: Get behind me

Donald Trump’s inauguration speech as the nation’s 45th president will focus on “the issues that unite us,” said Trump friend and inaugural committee chief Tom Barrack.

“What you’ll hear in his address is a switch from candidate to president,” Barrack told CBS’ “This Morning.”

The divisions from the campaign? They will “vanish,” Barrack said.

Oh, and by the way: not his fault!

“It wasn’t Donald Trump that divided this country, this country has been divided for a long time!” Trump tweeted Thursday, quoting evangelist Franklin Graham.

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The speech from the Capitol will follow the swearing-in by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, whom Trump called a “dummy” for the 2012 decision upholding Obamacare.

Though Trump is as unpopular as a new president can be, a Pew Research Center poll found a glimmer of light — 49% of Americans think 2017 will be a better year than 2016, compared with the 42% who think it will be worse. But as for the nation’s divisions, 71% expect them to be as bad or worse in five years.

Rising to the occasion

Here’s one thing working in Trump’s advantage for his speech:

“Expectations are so low that I really think he might be able to surprise people,” Baylor University rhetoric and political science professor Martin J. Medhurst tells Newsday’s Tom Brune.

Trump’s key tasks for his address, Brune writes, include reaching out to opponents, reassuring the world and defining his presidency.

Newsday’s Robert Brodsky takes an in-depth look at the major issues facing Trump when the festivities are over.

Take-away: Straight outta Queens

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Newsday’s Dan Janison looks at some of Trump’s historic firsts and anomalies. He’ll be the first president to take the oath after his 70th birthday. He’ll be the first from Queens. And there’s little precedent for the noise level of foes who will be protesting and boycotting.

Drumroll, please

In Washington on the eve of his inauguration, Trump laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and attended a “Make America Great Again!” concert at the Lincoln Memorial. See David M. Schwartz and Tom Brune’s story for Newsday.

Earlier, at a luncheon, he boasted about his team — “We have by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever assembled.”

Newsday’s Schwartz has the bios of the nominees.

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Polls vs. Trump

Trump complained on Twitter Tuesday about “rigged” and “phony” polls showing his persistent unpopularity. He can add the latest survey from Trump-friendly Fox News to his list.

A 54% majority disapproved of how he handled the transition. By 55% to 42%, voters had an unfavorable view of Trump as a person.

Bank shots

Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s pick as Treasury secretary, was grilled by Democrats at his confirmation hearing over his handling of thousands of mortgage foreclosures while running OneWest bank— including on an elderly woman whose payment came up 27 cents short.

“To the extent there were any errors, I am sorry for that,” he said.

Mnuchin also blamed his failure to initially disclose to the committee $100 million in assets and interests in a Cayman Islands corporation on a complicated questionnaire. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) snarked on Twitter:

“When Mnuchin makes mistakes on complicated paperwork, he asks for forgiveness. When his customers made mistakes, he took their homes.”

Higher on energy

The first time he ran for president, the Department of Energy was one of three Rick Perry vowed to eliminate.

“My past statements made over five years ago ... do not reflect my current thinking,” the former Texas governor said at his confirmation hearing for secretary of energy.

He promised to listen to federal scientists, including those who work on climate change. “I’m going to protect all of the science, whether it’s related to the climate or to the other aspects of what we’re going to be doing,” Perry said.

What else is happening:

  • Trump let slip at the luncheon that New York Jets owner Woody Johnson will be his ambassador to the United Kingdom. The heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune joins an ever-more-crowded billionaires’ club in the new administration. See Newsday’s story by Kimberley A. Martin.
  • The luncheon was held at Trump’s new Washington hotel. “A total genius must have built this place,” he said. But the moment he becomes president, Trump may be in violation of his federal lease on the building, The Washington Post reports.
  • Trump’s Cabinet is the first since 1989 to not include a Latino. Spokesman Sean Spicer said the administration will include “diversity in gender and diversity in thinking and a diversity of ideology. So, it’s not just about, you know, skin color or ethnic heritage.”
  • Spicer said Trump will probably sign four or five executive actions on Friday, mainly focused on logistics and government operations, with more coming Monday, The Washington Post says. The latter are expected to include his “Day One” promises to roll back President Barack Obama’s policies.
  • A security force of 30,000 is protecting the inauguration and related events at a cost of about $100 million, reports Newsday’s Michael Gormley.
  • At least three Cabinet picks — the CIA director and the secretaries for Defense and Homeland Security — are likely to be confirmed as soon as Friday afternoon, but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is digging in against others that he says need more scrutiny, The Los Angeles Times reports.
  • Thousands of anti-Trump protesters gathered outside of the Trump International Hotel and Tower at Manhattan’s Columbus Circle. Mayor Bill de Blasio, Alec Baldwin and Rosie Perez were among the speakers.
  • Trump asked roughly 50 senior Obama administration officials to stay on for now to “ensure the continuity of government,” Spicer said. Among those who refused, according to Reuters: the top deputy to the director of national intelligence and two senior State Department officials.