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Trump takes charge, as assertive but untested 45th U.S. president

President Donald Trump dances with first lady Melania Trump at the Liberty Ball, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, in Washington. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
President Donald Trump dances with first lady Melania Trump at the Liberty Ball, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, in Washington. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
By Julie Pace Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Pledging emphatically to empower America’s “forgotten men and women,” Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, taking command of a riven nation facing an unpredictable era under his assertive but untested leadership.

Under cloudy, threatening skies at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, Trump painted a bleak picture of the America he now leads, declaring as he had throughout the election campaign that it is beset by crime, poverty and a lack of bold action. The billionaire businessman and reality television star – the first president who had never held political office or high military rank – promised to stir a “new national pride” and protect America from the “ravages” of countries he says have stolen U.S. jobs.

“This American carnage stops right here,” Trump declared. In a warning to the world, he said, “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America first.”

Eager to demonstrate his readiness to take actions, Trump went directly to the Oval Office Friday night, before the inaugural balls, and signed his first executive order as president – on “Obamacare.”

The order notes that Trump intends to seek the “prompt repeal” of the law. But in the meantime, it allows the Health and Human Services Department or other federal agencies to delay implementing any piece of the law that might impose a “fiscal burden” on states, health care providers, families or individuals.

Trump also signed commissions for two former generals confirmed to Cabinet posts earlier by the Senate.

“This is a movement and now the work begins,” Trump told supporters, before dancing with his wife, Melania, at the first of three inaugural balls. “We love you. We’re going to be working for you and we’re going to produce results.”

At the inauguration, the crowd that spread out before Trump on the National Mall was notably smaller than at past inaugurals, reflecting both the divisiveness of last year’s campaign and the unpopularity of the incoming president compared to modern predecessors.

The president has used the balls to recount his victory and to let supporters know that “now the fun begins.”

One of the biggest cheers of the night came when he asked whether he should continue to use his Twitter account. The crowd gave the question a resounding yes.

The president took part in one dance at each ball after giving a short speech. The president chose to dance to the song “My Way” during the first two balls and “I Will Always Love You” for the third.

Short and pointed, Trump’s 16-minute address in the heart of Washington was a blistering rebuke of many who listened from privileged seats only feet away. Surrounded by men and women who have long filled the government’s corridors of power, the new president said that for too long, “a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.”

His predecessor, Obama, sat stoically as Trump pledged to push the country in a dramatically different direction.

Trump’s call for restrictive immigration measures, religious screening of immigrants and his caustic campaign rhetoric about women and minorities angered millions. He did not directly address that opposition, instead offering a call to “speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.”

While Trump did not detail policy proposals Friday, he did set a high bar for his presidency. The speech was full of the onetime showman’s lofty promises to bring back jobs, “completely” eradicate Islamic terrorism, and build new roads, bridges and airports.

At 70, Trump is the oldest person to be sworn in as president.

In a show of solidarity, all of the living American presidents attended the inaugural, except for 92-year-old George H.W. Bush, who was hospitalized this week with pneumonia. His wife, Barbara, was also in the hospital after falling ill.

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