Donald Trump takes office as America's 45th president: 'Now arrives the hour for action'

He presses for an "America first" policy and appeals for unity.

WASHINGTON — Donald John Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, capping one of history's most unconventional paths to the White House, a businessman celebrity who drove a populist movement with an anti-establishment fervor and sweeping tagline to Make America Great Again.

His address, just over 16 minutes, skipped much of the lofty rhetoric of predecessors. Rather, Trump attacked Washington power brokers and portrayed an America beset with problems, from drugs to illegal immigration and the "ravages of other countries stealing our companies and destroying our jobs."

"The time for empty talk is over," Trump said in a speech he drafted at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago. "Now arrives the hour for action."

Trump's attack on the Washington establishment came as the leaders of Capitol Hill sat directly behind him, both parties unsure what lies ahead from a commander-in-chief who has no political or military experience.

"Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth," Trump said. "The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. … Jan. 20, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became rulers of this nation again."

Barack and Michelle Obama, who rode with Trump and first lady Melania Trump to the ceremony, looked on as did former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and his wife, Hillary, whom Trump stunned in a campaign marked by wild turns and constant tension.

"I'm here today to honor our democracy & its enduring values," Clinton, who was met with a smattering of boos from the crowd, wrote on Twitter. "I will never stop believing in our country & its future."

Trump, 70, took the oath of office at 11:59 a.m. with a Bible used by Abraham Lincoln, as Obama had done. He also used a Bible his mother gave him in 1955 upon graduating from Sunday school in New York. He wore a dark overcoat, opened to display a bright red tie, and pumped his fist for the crowd. Vice President Mike Pence, a former congressman and governor of Indiana, also was sworn in.

The ceremony took place on the West Lawn of the Capitol under a gray sky, rain intermittent, temperatures in the mid 40s, people spread across the National Mall, which was dotted with red Make America Great Again caps. Hundreds of thousands were in attendance, though the crowd appeared smaller than Obama's 2013 inaugural and much smaller than 2009.

A number of Florida Republicans attended, including Gov. Rick Scott, who hosted a ball on Wednesday; Attorney General Pam Bondi, expected to get a post in the Trump administration; House Speaker Richard Corcoran; and lobbyist Brian Ballard. While big-name entertainers were missing, big-time political figures were on hand, including billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

By morning, Washington will fill with a different crowd: women taking part in a protest march, one of many demonstrations held across the country. Even as Trump spoke, people were taking to the streets in opposition, vowing to resist him as vehemently as Republicans opposed Obama. Some clashed with police and damaged property.

Trump begins with an approval rating of about 40 percent, the least-popular incoming president in modern history. Nearly 70 House Democrats boycotted the ceremony, including Florida Reps. Darren Soto and Alcee Hastings.

"I came to the inauguration hoping for a unifying speech that would reach out to the majority of Americans who did not vote for the new president," said Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton. "I was sorely disappointed in his dark and divisive address that sounded more like an angry and overheated convention speech instead."

There are ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in the election that intelligence officials have concluded was designed to help Trump. And the commander-in-chief faces a Republican-controlled House and Senate that is skeptical of his readiness, demeanor and some of his ideas.

But Friday was a celebration for a candidate who shocked the political system from the start with an announcement speech in June 2015 that was notable for its theatrical escalator entrance at Trump Tower and tough rhetoric toward illegal immigrants.

Cast aside by Republicans and Democrats alike as a publicity stunt, Trump's candidacy only grew in strength, enduring missteps and controversy that would have hobbled others. Supporters were drawn to blunt talk that Trump barely tempered Friday.

"He hasn't changed a bit," said Tony DiMatteo, a Republican leader in Pinellas County who backed Trump. "I don't think he's going to compromise. He's going to want it his way and quick. His first 100 days will be a whirlwind. That's what we need, a smart harda- -."

Trump used his address to call for restoring jobs, getting tough on crime and drugs — "This American carnage stops right here and stops right now" — and to espouse an "America first" policy toward trade, immigration and foreign policy.

He also called for unity.

"We share one heart, one home and one glorious destiny. The oath of office is an oath of allegiance to all Americans," he said, later adding: "Whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots. We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms and we all salute the same great American flag."

During lunch in the Capitol's Statuary Hall, Trump led a standing ovation for the Clintons and said, "I have a lot of respect for those two people."

Eight years ago when Obama took the oath, making history as the first African-American president, the economic crisis was in full bloom. Trump begins with the benefit of a recovery, though he still faces economic challenges reflected in the faces of men and women who carried him in November.

Trump faces great pressure to make good on major promises, including taking a harder approach on terrorism and tackling immigration. He has vowed to oversee the dismantling of Obama's signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act, a job infinitely more difficult than the campaign chant of "repeal and replace."

"If he delivers, he'll be a very popular president," said former U.S. Rep. David Jolly, a Pinellas County Republican. "If he doesn't, there will be a lot of disappointed people. He promised to change Washington, but Trump will likely face the reality that Obama and past presidents have, that after four or eight years they realized they were unable to do so. Obama has already expressed that lament."

Hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters watched with great anticipation, though some said they did not expect Trump to follow through on everything.

"I expect a whole bunch of executive orders reversing things Obama did. I want to see work done on immigration. A good Supreme Court justice. If he does that, everything else is gravy," said Stacey Campfield of Knoxville, Tenn.

Debbie Turner of Nashville said of Trump's vow to "drain the swamp" of Washington: "He wants to do it. Whether he will be able to is another thing. His heart is in the right place. His vision is in the right place. He has a vision for the American people."

She is conflicted on Trump's use of Twitter, which he has used to attack the media and detractors in both parties well into a transition period when the president-elect normally works to repair hard feelings and rally the country. "I sometimes wish he wouldn't be so petty. But at least you can't twist his words to say he meant something else."

Tammy Mathews of Williston said she wanted Trump to continue. "I like that I hear it straight from him, without spin. If you get it from the media, there's spin."

And hours before being sworn in, Trump was on his phone. "It all begins today!" he wrote. "THE MOVEMENT CONTINUES — THE WORK BEGINS."

Times staff writers Louis Jacobson and Adam C. Smith contributed to this report. Contact Alex Leary at [email protected] Follow @learyreports.