Good afternoon and welcome to The Point on the first day of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Suffolk County Republican leader and now Donald Trump confidant John Jay LaValle had great seats for Friday’s inaugural ceremony — but he gave them to his brother, Kenneth LaValle, a Brookhaven Town councilman who accompanied him to D.C. for three days of festivities.
But after watching the swearing-in on TV with friends from the University of Maryland, John Jay LaValle praised the president’s speech, describing it as a “direct” and “real” message to the people. It wasn’t one of those “rhetorical unity concept” kind of addresses, he said.
LaValle has been getting a lot of good tickets lately.
At Thursday night’s candlelight dinner at Union Station, where Trump spoke, LaValle sat back to back with Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s counselor, and a few tables away from Robert Mercer, who has a mansion in Head of the Harbor, and his daughter, Rebekah Mercer, who gave lots of money, plus an intellectual framework, to Trump’s populist message.
And on Friday night, LaValle will be in the reserved section of the exclusive Liberty Ball, one the three galas that Trump will attend, and the smallest one.
While in D.C., LaValle has yet to personally speak with Trump, but he texted his congratulations and good wishes on Friday morning.
“I assume it went through, it didn’t come back,” said LaValle, adding that Trump still has his old cellphone along with the new encrypted one the military gave him.
As the crowd began to gather in front of the Capitol Friday morning, those attending the inauguration were greeted with a video celebrating the building’s history and the peaceful transition of power.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer had a cameo in that video as he had four years ago, according to his office. But this year he had a bigger role once the ceremony started: a brief few minutes of opposition-party remarks based on his position as U.S. Senate minority leader.
Schumer launched into those remarks with hardly a pause after being introduced, walking a fine line between advancing unity and opposition. He spent a strangely long period on the well-known Civil War letters of Maj. Sullivan Ballou, the Union soldier who would die at the Battle of Bull Run.
But he also identified the protection of certain American rights as fundamental to our successful union, identifying issues like freedom of the press and “gender identity,” which elicited a lone cheer from the guest section just below the podium at the Capitol.
Attendees on the Mall did not seem so agreeable toward Schumer’s words. Some booed, and he spoke quickly over the rising crowd noise in front of him, at times so loud that people in the news media and guest section turned around to crane their necks and look at the seeming lack of interest below.
Weight of the world
Protests in the capitol
Protesters in Washington were peaceful and plentiful for much of Friday morning, with some pockets of dissent turning more tense as the day wore on.
A little after 2 p.m. at the intersection of K and 12th streets, protesters and police faced off, with officers using what appeared to be concussion or flash grenades after demonstrators lobbed objects.
People in the group say some protesters broke police-car windows. Earlier, a block or two away, a Starbucks and a Bank of America branch were vandalized. The police response, in turn, turned more aggressive, with armored National Guard vehicles appearing on the scene.
The crowd was characterized by a large diversity of signs and opinions. Signs proclaimed, “We are the 99%,” and, “Stop the war on Black America.”
Some people chanted “No Trump, no KKK,” while others periodically urged other demonstrators to be peaceful and not to run.
Two young men with Donald Trump hats wandered along the edge of the crowd, and didn’t interact with protesters. Another waded in farther and said, “He’s your president,” as protesters continued the KKK chant.
Ladies in white
Women appeared as backdrops in Friday’s presidential inauguration ceremony, not in the lead role, as Hillary Clinton supporters had hoped.
But women did stand out on the inaugural stage, especially those wearing white — what suffragettes wore in their fight to win the right to vote in 1919. Clinton herself wore white, as did Laura Bush and Jill Biden. In President Donald Trump’s family, both daughters Ivanka and Tiffany dressed in white.
But women won’t be in the backdrop for long, as several hundred thousand are expected in the nation's capital on Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington in a show of solidarity for women’s rights and in opposition to some of Trump’s agenda. White clothing might not be the style of the day, but it’s unlikely the women demonstrating in D.C. will be in the background.
Tiffany box caught in the transition
The personal interactions between the Obamas and the Trumps had been pretty smooth, as things go, until the big moment Friday morning, when the president-elect and his wife arrived at their new home to get the keys from the family that’s leaving. That’s when it got a little awkward.
With the eyes of the world fixated on that moment, Barack and Michelle Obama stood on the front steps of the White House waiting to welcome Donald and Melania Trump.
The incoming first lady came up the steps with a hostess gift, a sweater-sized Tiffany box tied with its signature white ribbon. A photograph, perhaps, in a frame she got in the store just next to her apartment building?
While Michelle Obama gave a leather journal and silver pen to departing first lady Laura Bush in 2009, she did so privately, when the two women were having coffee inside.
“You brought a gift,” Michelle Obama graciously said as she gamely tried to hand off the box to take the traditional photo unencumbered. Unable to find someone, the first lady decided to tuck it under her arm. But her husband, seeing her distress, took the box. Even then, no member of the White House staff ventured toward the foursome to take custody of it.
Finally, Barack Obama, saying, “I’ll take care of the protocol here,” walked it inside.