Presidential Inauguration at the White House, What time does it begin? Everything you need to know

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Donald Trump’s inauguration is almost upon us – the 45th President of the United States will take office just ten weeks after stunning America and the world by winning the US election

The eyes of the world will be on Mr Trump as he takes the Oath of Office, and offers his inaugural address.

He will replace Barack Obama in the White House, but not before a ceremony that dates back to George Washington.

When and where is Trump’s Presidential inauguration?

Donald Trump’s inauguration to become president takes place at noon local time (5pm GMT) on Friday, January 20.

The main ceremony is held at the White House, followed by a number of Inaugural Balls across the city of Washington DC.

The official swearing-in ceremony occurs on the steps in front of the Capitol.

Why is there a gap between US election and presidential inauguration?

The US election was held on November 8, 2016, but Donald Trump does not officially become president until midday on January 20.

Until 1933, the new president was inaugurated on March 4, four months after election day.

This was then shortened to around two months with the ratification of the 20th Amendment.

The time between US election and inauguration allows for the incumbent, or ‘lame duck’, president to tie up any loose ends, and for the incoming president to prepare for his tenure by working on policy and appointing his cabinet.

But the main reason for the delay is to allow for the election to continue. On November 8, members of the public cast their votes – but not directly for who they want to be president.

Americans vote for people called ‘electors’ in their state who are supporting the candidate they want to become president – this process is called the ‘Electoral College’.

The more people who live in a state, the more electors there are for that state. The candidate with the most electors wins all the state’s electoral college votes and the first candidate to win enough states to get to 270 electoral votes is elected to that office.

Mr Trump was declared officially the president-elect when the Texas votes were counted, pushing him over the 270-vote threshold.

After the December 19 vote, Mr Trump finished with 304 electoral votes and his Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton got 227. Seven electors defied convention and went against the popular vote, refusing to vote for either candidate.

The results from December 19 were confirmed by Congress on January 6.

Eve of the inauguration

President-elect Donald Trump and vice-president elect Mike Pence will lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery on January 19. This will be followed by a “Make America Great Again!” welcome concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

The Oath of Office

At noon local time (5pm GMT) on January 20, Donald Trump will take the Oath of Office and be sworn in as America’s 45th president.

The event will be presided over by Roy Blunt, a Republican senator from Missouri and chairman of Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Activities.

He will introduce Chief Justice John Roberts of the US Supreme Court who will administer the oath on the steps of the United States Capitol Building.

Obama inauguration
Barack and Michelle Obama at Mr Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 Credit: Alex Brandon/AP

It will go something like this:

I Donald J Trump, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God

Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, will take the oath shortly before Mr Trump.

Then the Herald Trumpets will perform four  “Ruffles and Flourishes. The ruffles are played on drums and the flourishes on bugles, which are simple brass instruments with no valves.

The ruffles and flourishes form a fanfare before a performance of the president’s anthem, “Hail to the Chief”, and the vice-president’s anthem, “Hail, Columbia”. There is then a 21-gun salute from the howitzers of the military district of Washington.

The inaugural address

After the swearing in, Mr Trump will give a speech that will, as all inaugural addresses are, be recorded in the pages of history.

In his second inaugural address, with the country emerging from devastating civil war, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed “malice toward none and charity for all”.

Franklin Roosevelt told a country ravaged by the Great Depression that all it had to fear was fear itself, and John F Kennedy urged Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.

Mr Trump will hope to follow in their footsteps. If he follows Mr Obama’s example, the speech will be about 20 minutes in length.

Following his speech Senator Blunt will introduce religious leaders.

Readings and invocations will come from His Eminence Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York; Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and Pastor Paula White of New Destiny Christian Center.

Readings and benediction will come from Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Rev. Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as well as son of famous evangelist Billy Graham; and Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries International.


Does the outgoing president attend the inauguration?

It is customary for the outgoing president to attend the inauguration of the incoming president, however, it is not compulsory.

President Obama is expected to be there at Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday, but if he does not, then he would be the first president for 96 years to make such a snub.

The pair have had a strained relationship. Mr Trump previously claimed that Mr Obama was born outside the US and was therefore not a legitimate president, and later suggested he was the “founder of Isis”, but later backed down on both claims.

During the election campaign, Mr Trump said one of his first actions would be to try and erase the effects of Mr Obama’s presidency.

He promised to cancel every “executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama”, but again, he has backed down or softened his stance on several of Obama’s policies.

On the campaign trail he repeatedly described Obama as weak, “a disaster,” ineffective and “the most ignorant president in our history.”

Mr Obama savaged him throughout the election campaign as irresponsible and dangerous, warning that the “fate of the world” was at risk in the event of a Trump presidency.

However, at their meeting after the US election, both men struck a conciliatory note after they met to discuss the transition from one administration to the next.

Who else will be in attendance?

Former presidents George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter will be attending along with their wives, the former first ladies Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Rosalynn Carter.

Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton will come face-to-face for the first time since she lost a brusing election campaign.

George HW Bush, the 41st president, will not be there as he is being treated at a Houston hospital suffering with pneumonia.

His wife of 72 years, former first lady Barbara Bush, also was admitted to the same hospital on Wednesday as a precaution after experiencing fatigue and coughing

The pomp and circumstance

Prior to Mr Trump’s address there will probably be musical performances and words from religious leaders.

Afterwards, there will be a departure ceremony for Mr Obama as his family.

Melania and Donald Trump arrive for a campaign rally in North Carolina Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

Mr Trump will then attend the traditional Congressional luncheon and take part in the inaugural parade.

His motorcade will travel down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House, with well wishers and protesters lining the streets.

The White House handover

Oval Office
Oval Office Credit: Reuters

Barack Obama will wake up in the White House on the morning of January 20. That night, Donald Trump will go to sleep for the first time in his new home.

The White House changes hands almost as instantaneously as the presidency does.

While the inaugural ceremonies are underway, staff at the White House will be frantically moving out the remnants of the Obama administration, and preparing the residence and offices for their new inhabitants.

The next morning, Mr Trump will walk from his new White House residence to the West Wing to attend to his duties as President of the United States.

Inaugural balls

Across Washington DC inaugural balls will be held to mark Mr Trump’s ascent to the presidency. They will feature dancing and entertainment and appearances by President and First Lady Trump, and Vice President and Mrs. Pence.

The entertainment

Trump is struggling to find big name stars to appear at the festivities next month, according to Hollywood insiders. At the moment only a few acts have agreed to turn up.

So who is performing at Trump’s inauguration?

The Radio City Rockettes

The high-kicking Rockettes, founded in 1932, performed at both inaugurations for George W. Bush and will be involved in this inauguration.

The Rockettes performing "Curtain Call" during the 2016 New York Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall in New York
The Rockettes performing “Curtain Call” during the 2016 New York Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall in New York Credit:  TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

The dance troupe, which is famous for its synchronised high kicks, has been a New York City institution since the 1930s and is especially popular during the holiday season.

However, some members of group have posted on social media that they have been forced by their bosses to perform.

Rockettes dancer Phoebe Purl posted on her Instagram (which has since been made private) that Trump is “not her president”.

Jackie Evancho

Evancho  appeared on the fifth season of the reality TV contest show “America’s Got Talent.” A classical opera singer, she was just 11 years-old when she finished as runner-up on the show.

Since then, she has released five studio albums, including three Christmas albums, and performed for President Obama at the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony and National Prayer Breakfast.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, comprised of 360 men and women who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has performed at five previous inaugurations, according to a press release on the choir’s website. The last time came in 2001 during the inaugural parade for George W. Bush. They will perform at Trump’s swearing-in ceremony.

The choir is based in Salt Lake City, where the Mormon church’s robust presence led many political analysts to suggest that Trump’s comments about women, feud with Mitt Romney and brash political style would struggle in the state.

However one singer, Jen Chamberlin, has resigned from the choir rather than perform at the inauguration

And those not performing are..?

Kanye West

The controversial rapper  surprised fans when he told concertgoers he would have voted for Trump in the election.

He later met with the president-elect at Trump Tower after being released from the hospital for a reported mental health crisis.

Sir Elton John

Sir Elton’s song “Tiny Dancer” was a fixture at many Trump rallies, so rumours began to circulate about him performing on Jan 10th.

However, his publicist issued a strong denial to the New York Times. John had performed at a fundraiser for Trump’s opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, during the campaign.

Andrea Bocelli

The Italian opera singer is a friend of Trump, but he will not sing at the inauguration.

Whether it was Bocelli or Trump who decided against it, however, is unclear.  Bocelli reportedly decided not to do so over fears of a backlash.


Frontman Gene Simmons will be touring in Europe at the time of the inauguration, but his wife said he would not perform anyway. Simmons, however, has expressed support for Trump in the past.

Idina Menzel

Menzel, famous for her roles in the musical ‘Wicked’ and for singing Let it Go from ‘Frozen,’ told Vanity Fair that Trump’s scheduling woes were “karma” and that he might have to sing himself at the ceremony because “all the artists in the world got up and tried to get” Clinton elected.

The Beach Boys

One of the most iconic bands in American musical history, The Beach Boys have been invited to perform by Trump, according to Billboard. However, the band has not decided whether it will accept the invitation.

Kid Rock

The rock/rapper from Detroit has expressed support for Trump in the past, but there have been no reports yet that he will perform.

Alec Baldwin

Baldwin, the actor who has infuriated Donald Trump with his impersonation on the US comedy show Saturday Night Live, has offered to perform at the president-elect’s inauguration next month.

No word yet from The Donald…

The day after

Washington National Cathedral will host a Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service on  January 21. It is a tradition dating back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inauguration in 1933. Bill Clinton, however, chose the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, the historic black church in downtown Washington, for both of his inaugural prayer services.

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