President-elect Donald Trump arrived Thursday in Washington, D.C., on the eve of his inauguration as the 45th president of the United States, laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery and attending a “Make America Great Again!” concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Trump, settling into the nation’s capital as he’s poised to ascend to the most powerful post in America, boasted about his prospective Cabinet, while Vice President-elect and transition head Mike Pence told reporters the administration would be ready on Day One after Trump named his final Cabinet pick, Sonny Perdue, to head the Department of Agriculture.
“We have a lot of smart people. I’ll tell you what, one thing we’ve learned, we have by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever assembled,” Trump said at a luncheon at the Presidential Ballroom of Trump International hotel.
Trump and his wife, Melania, later attended the concert concert Thursday night, featuring country singer Toby Keith and band Three Doors Down.
[Thousands of supporters and protesters are expected to attend the inauguration Friday at noon and a parade will follow. An anti-Trump women’s march is scheduled for Saturday.
While Trump prepares to take the reins of the federal government, the Senate has not yet confirmed any of his Cabinet-level picks. Incoming White House spokesman Sean Spicer criticized Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democrats for delaying confirmation of some Cabinet-level positions.
Singling out the nominations of proposed Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Housing and Urban Development nominee Ben Carson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Spicer accused Democrats and Schumer (D-N.Y.) of harming the transition.
“They’re not working with us to ensure the continuity of government,” Spicer said during a news conference at the transition team’s headquarters. “There’s no excuse for their delay tactics and, frankly, partisanship.”
Schumer said at a news conference shortly afterward, “We’re not dragging anything out.”
Schumer put the blame on the Trump transition team and the Senate Republican majority for conducting “a mockery of the nomination process” by failing to ensure all appointees had filed required financial disclosures and ethics agreements. He accused Republicans of trying to jam nominees through hearings with inadequate time for questions.
Schumer said possible conflicts of interest or ethical concerns had arisen with several candidates, including budget director nominee Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) over failure to pay taxes on a nanny who worked for him; Health and Human Services secretary appointee Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) for buying a medical device company stock affected by legislation he later proposed; and Secretary of State pick and recently retired Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson, who refused to recuse himself from issues related to Exxon Mobil for his entire service.
Schumer said members had more questions for Carson, a former neurosurgeon, because he had no background in housing.
Senate Democrats have agreed to hold votes as soon as Friday on at least two and possibly three of Trump’s national security nominees.
Schumer said he has agreed to votes on retired Gen. James Mattis as defense secretary and retired Gen. John Kelly as homeland security chief. Schumer also said the nomination of Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) to be CIA director could also be up for a vote.
Schumer said there might be other nominees that Democrats would be willing to vote on, though he declined to specify whom.
Also Thursday, transition officials confirmed that Trump has picked Perdue, the Georgia governor, to lead the Agriculture Department.
The selection, announced on Thursday, ends a monthslong drama surrounding the last position in Trump’s 15-member Cabinet to be filled.
Perdue, whose name was one of the first to surface as a possible pick for the USDA post, appeared to satisfy the agriculture industry’s desire for someone with farming experience.
Perdue grew up on a row-crop farm in central Georgia and is an original member of Trump’s Agricultural Advisory Committee, created in August.
The pick also means Trump won’t have a Hispanic in his Cabinet, breaking a precedent that stretched back to Ronald Reagan.
During the presidential campaign, Trump alienated many Hispanics with threats of widespread deportations and building a wall along the border with Mexico. Nonetheless, Hispanic leaders and some of his aides tried to persuade him to choose a Hispanic Cabinet member.
On Tuesday night, Trump officials had said Abel Maldonado, a former Republican California lieutenant governor, was still in the running. Maldonado was spotted at the bar at the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., and posted several photos of the hotel on Twitter.
Spicer defended the diversity of his Cabinet, pointing to Chao, an Asian-American; Carson, an African-American, and Haley, an Indian-American.
Spicer said there are still 5,000 jobs to fill and a “tremendous number” would be filled with Hispanics.
“Stay tuned,” he said.
Pence told reporters that the transition was going smoothly and that costs would come in 20 percent under budget.
At the White House, supporters of President Barack Obama cried and held up signs saying “Thank you” as they prepared for the new occupant after a bitter electoral contest.
Trump supporters began arriving in Washington as well. Fred Sganga, 50, of Cold Spring Harbor, on Thursday rode the Metro to the office of Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) to pick up a ticket to an inaugural ball. Sganga said he has known Trump would be president since Sganga saw him come down the escalator at the June 2015 news conference announcing his candidacy.
“There’s nothing greater than observing firsthand the peaceful transition of power,” said Sganga, who is executive director of the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University.
With Emily Ngo
INAUGURATION CEREMONY AND PARADE
When: Friday Jan. 20; Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s swearing-in ceremony is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. followed by musical performances. President-elect Donald Trump’s swearing-in ceremony is scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. with opening remarks to be made by religious leaders before he takes the oath of office at noon. Immediately after the ceremony, Trump is expected to walk in the Inaugural Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.
Where: U.S. Capitol building, Washington, D.C.
Where to watch on TV: All major TV networks and cable news networks are scheduled to air the ceremony and parade including News 12 Long Island, ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, Univision, Telemundo, CNN, CSPAN, MSNBC, CNBC and Fox New and Fox Business.
Watch online: Twitter in a partnership with “PBS NewsHour” will live-stream inauguration events from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at inauguration.twitter.com and at the Twitter handle @NewsHour. YouTube will host live streams on its video sharing site from these news outlets: NBC News, CBS News, Telemundo, C-SPAN, Bloomberg Politics, USA Today and The Washington Post.