News World Donald Trump arrives in Washington, inauguration concert underway

Donald Trump arrives in Washington, inauguration concert underway

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Donald and Melania Trump greet the concert crowd in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Photo: AAP
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President-elect Donald Trump’s inaugural festivities began in earnest on Thursday with a live concert at the Lincoln Memorial, where Toby Keith, Lee Greenwood and Jon Voight were on the bill.

The event – officially called the Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration – was also streamed online.

“There’s never been a movement like this, and it’s something very special,” Mr Trump said at the concert’s end.

Then, referring to his appeal to disaffected working class supporters, he told them, “You are not forgotten anymore”.

Voight added that “we all wondered if God could reverse the barrage of negative lies” made about Mr Trump during the campaign.

“He certainly didn’t need this job, and yes, God answered all of our prayers, because here it is. We will be part of history. All of us,” Voight told the crowd, who stretched down the National Mall along the reflecting pool toward the Washington Monument.

Then Sam Moore, best known for Soul Man, sang America the Beautiful with a choir backup and asked the crowd to join with him. DJ Ravi Drums opened the concert, and it also featured the Army Fife and Drum Corps.

About 20 minutes into the concert, Mr Trump and his wife Melania walked down the steps of the Memorial as recorded music of the Rolling Stones’ Heart of Stone.

They then took their seats with the rest of the Mr Trump family.

Much focus had been paid during Mr Trump’s transition as to who he would line up for the ceremony, given the lopsided support that Hillary Clinton enjoyed among musicians and other artists.

Sources say that a number of Mr Trump associates and friends reached out, including Steve Wynn, to many in the industry to perform, but a number have declined.

Showbiz figures such as Garth Brooks, Celine Dion and Elton John reportedly declined invites, and Jennifer Holliday, announced last week as one of the performers, dropped out of the event on Saturday. She cited negative reaction from some of her fans.

Security, fans and demonstrators

Earlier in the day, as the president-elect left New York behind, the capital braced for an onslaught of inaugural crowds and demonstrators numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

Mr Trump was already taking on more of the trappings of the presidency, giving a salute to the Air Force officer who welcomed him as he stepped off the military plane with wife Melania at Joint Base Andrews just outside Washington.

Meanwhile, the White House was quickly emptying out. President Barack Obama’s schedule was empty beyond his daily briefing and his final weekly lunch with Vice President Joe Biden.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence, in a tweet, called Inauguration Eve “a momentous day before a historic day,” as security barricades and blockades went up around Washington in preparation for Friday’s swearing-in ceremony.

“We are all ready to go to work,” Mr Pence said at a morning news conference.

“In fact, we can’t wait to get to work for the American people to make it great again.”

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A vendor waits for customers near the Washington Monument ahead of Mr Trump’s inauguration. Photo: AP /Matt Rourke

Mr Trump’s first scheduled stop in Washington: a leadership luncheon bringing together inaugural officials, top Republican leaders in Congress, his Cabinet picks and top members of his new White House team.

Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said he’d be putting on his “favourite DHS jacket” and taking to the streets to inspect security preparations for the inaugural festivities.

Mr Trump’s public schedule for the inaugural celebration starts with an afternoon wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery.

Before departing for Washington, Mr Trump announced his final Cabinet choice: former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue for agriculture secretary.

Spokesman Sean Spicer said the president-elect was continuing to make “edits and additions” to the inaugural address he’ll deliver at Friday’s swearing-in.

Teary farewells at the White House

Meanwhile in what may be his last act as president, Mr Obama was planning to grant one final round of clemency on Thursday, following hundreds of commutations and pardons he issued earlier in the week.

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President Obama waves at the end of his final presidential news conference on Wednesday. Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Officials said the last batch would focus on non-violent drug offenders serving lengthy prison sentences, a population Mr Obama has long sought to assist through clemency.

Already, Mr Obama’s White House is operating with a skeleton staff. His aides have been departing in waves over the past few weeks, and by late Wednesday, only a handful were still on the job, creating an eerily quiet feeling in the normally bustling West Wing.

Those still left were packing up their desks, handing in their phones and saying teary farewells to their colleagues.

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