The inauguration date tacitly heralded Trump's four years
Trump's inauguration date four years ago seemed tacitly predictive of his term, when filled with "unprecedented".
Few, if not nobody, outside of Trump's "trajectory" could soon predict what would come like Brian Mosteller. Mosteller served as the Oval Office executive and special assistant to former President Barack Obama. As a result, he is one of the few remaining in the White House to support the transition of power on the day of President Donald Trump's inauguration in 2017.
Mosteller recalls the morning of January 20 of that year, when Trump and Obama, along with a handful of top political leaders, gathered in the White House's Green Room for a traditional tea party. As the people began boarding the convoys to Capitol Hill, the president was about to leave office and the new president stayed in the Grand Foyer room. Obama spoke quickly to Trump about a pending national security issue.
"Trump said, 'So what can he do in this situation?'" Mosteller said.
Mosteller was amazed, not only because Trump didn't seem to be thinking much about the matter, but also because "it was proof that he wasn't really interested in the answer".
A single scene before a historic ceremony that does not herald a presidential term. But when Trump's term ends on January 20, most of his time in office is as symbolic as the first day: fan elation, enemy terror, rhetoric, The unorthodox, disruptive approach as tactic, chaos as a by-product and petty obsessions colored it all. "God was so bad that day," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's longtime adviser, who was with him that day.
The family of President Donald Trump
The family of President Donald Trump parades on Pennsylvania Avenue after taking the oath of office on January 20, 2017. Photo: AP.
For Obama's transition team, it was a bleak day. Many of them at the White House that day were working on their eight-year mission. Some even slept in office before the inauguration day for fear that security controls in Washington would keep them from working on time the next day. Many aides recall feeling exhausted, depressed, mixed with a premonition that did not heal that day.
"I was exhausted after eight years of working there and hoping to get my job done," said Pete Souza, a longtime Obama photographer. "But at the time I was really concerned about this country, as well as who we were passing the keys to. Those were the two strange conflicting emotions of that day."
Everything that day was not the same as always. When Obama stepped down from the mansion to the Oval Office, he was given a notebook that summarized his schedule for the day, thinner than usual. All of his personal belongings were removed from the room.
Obama took the letter he wrote to Trump from the Resilience Desk, put it in an envelope and put it back in his drawer. He then returned to the mansion and had a party at the White House dining room with the staff. They gave him the flag that hung from the top of the White House that day.
"He's ready to leave," said a former assistant.
Immediately after that, the new president arrived and the atmosphere became tense. The moment Trump left First Lady Melania behind when he stepped up to greet Obama made the atmosphere a little embarrassing. Another embarrassing moment followed when Melania brought a present. Although it was only well-intentioned, it violated clear guidelines for prohibiting such communication.
Inside the White House, Obama aides felt overwhelmed by Trump's bold actions. Mosteller recalls Trump behaving as if he "just won an award".
Souza recounted in a more harsh tone. "I feel like the mafia is coming," he said. "It's very difficult to explain. He's too attentive to himself."
Everyone had a tea party before boarding the escort to Capitol Hill for the inauguration. When they got there, Trump and Obama went to two separate rooms. In his room, Obama signed the final official bill, while staff around him gave him a cheerful applause. Then they went to the site of the inauguration. At the same place eight years ago, Obama was sworn in. Meanwhile, before stepping onto the oath podium, Obama paused and closed his eyes a little.
"He closed his eyes for a few seconds. I guess he was praying," Souza said.
Souza remembers when Trump showed up, he also lingered a bit before taking his oath but to raise his fist high as if to show joy of victory. "My heart sank," said Souza.
One person involved in the inauguration described Trump's mood "completely excited and excited".
Trump's inauguration was filled with "no precedent". Ivanka's daughter the night before her inauguration had to convince Trump not to stay in her private hotel but to Blair House, located across from Lafayette Square, as is the tradition. Fears of Trump "rubber" were so great that his staff had to insist that the vice president would take over the presidency if he took the oath a few minutes late.