President-elect Donald Trump arrives in Washington, D.C. one day before he becomes the nation's 45th president

By Tierney McAfee
January 20, 2017 04:57 AM

 

President-elect Donald Trump arrived in Washington, D.C. Thursday to take part in pre-inaugural events just one day before he will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States of America.

On Thursday afternoon, Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

The ceremony was also attended by Trump’s family, including his wife, incoming first lady Melania Trump, as well as daughters Ivanka and Tiffany, sons Donald Jr. and Eric, and several grandchildren. Pence’s wife, Karen, was also there.

Trump’s family looked on as the president-elect and vice president-elect laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in honor of the nation’s fallen soldiers.

The two men stood for a moment of silence before stepping back and placing their hands over their hearts as a bugler played “Taps.”

Tom Barrack, chairman of the presidential inaugural committee, was interviewed by CNN just after Trump and Pence laid the wreath at Arlington, and spoke about what he’s witnessed behind closed doors.

“Goosebumps,” he said. “The weightiness of the moment — of transitioning from candidate to president — is momentous.”

The afternoon’s big event, a welcome concert titled “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration,” kicked off shortly after 4 p.m. Thursday at the Lincoln Memorial, with a military band playing as the Trump family filed in.

Later, actor Jon Voight addressed the crowd and spoke passionately in support of Trump.

“We have been witness to a barrage of propaganda that left us all breathless with anticipation not knowing if God could reverse all the negative lies against Mr. Trump, whose only desire was to make America great again,” he said.

“He certainly didn’t need this job, and yes, God answered all our prayers because here it is, we will be part of history, all of us, and President Lincoln, who sits here with us, I’m sure is smiling knowing America will be saved by an honest and good man who will work for all the people no matter their creed or color,” he continued.

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Voight then went on to introduce soul singer Sam Moore, who sang “America the Beautiful.”

As the crowd waited for the president-elect to make his entrance midway through the program, the loudspeakers blared The Rolling Stones’, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

Later, as Trump and his wife descended the memorial’s stone steps, Trump paused before the massive statue of Lincoln and saluted it. The pair made their grand entrance to the strains of “Heart of Stone.”

After the president-elect joined his family for the concert — sitting next to Melania and in the same row as Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner — he could be seen singing along as Lee Greenwood belted out his most well-known hit, “God Bless the U.S.A.”

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

He then sat as rock group 3 Doors Down performed ahead of headliner Toby Keith.

The country star took to the stage after dark, and after his first song acknowledged both the outgoing and incoming presidents.

“Thanks for Barack Obama for your service, and thanks to the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, I salute you,” he said.

At the close of the concert, Trump delivered his remarks, his first public address on the inaugural schedule, without any written notes. As such, his speech was quintessential Trump: a mix of old grudges (“They didn’t want to give us credit”), generalized promises (“We’re going to do a special job”), obvious untruths (“This hasn’t been done before” at the Lincoln Memorial) and ego.

He was keen to say how big his crowd was — and how it was his novel idea to stage an inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial. In fact, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama famously did the same.

Later, after thanking his family, he addressed reports of rain in Friday’s forecast, saying that “I don’t care frankly if it’s going to be beautiful or if it’s going to rain like crazy — makes no difference to me — I have a feeling it’s going to be beautiful.”

After his remarks, Trump and his family watched the fireworks display before filing past the statue of Lincoln once again.

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The president-elect, accompanied by wife Melania, left his branded luxury jet at home for the journey to Washington earlier on Thursday, traveling from New York City to Joint Base Andrews on a government aircraft. There was no media on board the plane.

Evan Vucci/AP

After touching down just outside the nation’s capitol on Thursday afternoon, the entire Trump family stopped first at the Pennsylvania Avenue hotel that bears the family name for a “leadership luncheon” with top supporters and donors.

“Tomorrow we start the work ahead … a lot to take care of, and we will make America great again!” Melania Trump said in introducing her husband. The official press pool was ejected from the room before the president-elect got to the substance of his own remarks.

One snippet that the press caught before they left the room: Trump remarking on the quality of his hotel’s ballroom. “Where is this? This is a gorgeous room. A total genius must have built this place.”

On Thursday night, Cowboy Troy and country duo Big & Rich will headline an Inauguration Gala presented by the Great America Alliance, a superPAC that supported Trump’s presidential campaign. The gala will also include appearances by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Voight. It’s unclear if Trump and Pence will make appearances at the gala.

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