WASHINGTON — Donald Trump sought divine blessings for his new administration Saturday as the forces of resistance to his presidency gathered in mass rallies in Washington and around the world.
The President left the White House with his family for an interfaith prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral on his first full day in office following Friday’s pageantry and parties, which were punctuated by his first steps to stamp his power on Washington.
Later Saturday, Trump is scheduled to travel to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, in his first effort to engage the government employees who now serve him.
As Trump left his new home Saturday morning, protestors poured into Washington for a Women’s March, a grassroots organizing effort meant to demonstrate a show of force to the new administration that women’s rights are human rights and to stress respect for racial, gender and political diversity that organizers say were threatened by Trump’s campaign.
Trump listened as the prayer service unfolded, watching clergy from various faiths including Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam offer prayers for his administration and the nation.
In his opening prayer, the Very Reverend Randolph Marshall Hollerith, the Dean of Washington National Cathedral, appeared to be making a point about the need for unity after the bitter, divisive election campaign that made Trump president.
“Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Hollerith said, reciting an excerpt from the Book of Common Prayer.
Later, Trump, who was accused of discrimination against followers of Islam throughout the campaign, sat quietly as a Muslim prayer echoed through the nave.
The President was not scheduled to speak, making the prayer service an unusual moment in a political journey shaped by his own brash comments, speeches and tweets.
Before spending his first night in the White House, Trump moved quickly to consolidate his power and to make an immediate break with the Obama administration. He signed an executive order that will begin the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act, the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s domestic legacy.
The 45th President also signed documents validating the appointments of his newly confirmed cabinet members Defense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. Other cabinet picks, including the incoming CIA director Mike Pompeo, are expected to receive votes from Monday, though partisan wrangling is still delaying many cabinet appointments.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus sent out a memo to all government agencies and departments calling for a freeze on new regulations.
Trump’s trip Saturday afternoon to CIA headquarters in suburban Washington is also full of symbolism.
The visit will be an important moment for Trump, who raised doubts about his relationship with US intelligence agencies by initially casting doubt on their assessment that Russian intervened in the election by hacking Democratic email accounts.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Twitter that the President was “Excited to thank the men and women of the intelligence community.”
World worries about speech
Trump was still buzzing on Saturday morning after the day of ceremony on Friday, which included his inaugural address in which he staked out stark themes rooted in nationalism and populism, promising to put “America first” in its dealings with the rest of the world.
“A fantastic day and evening in Washington D.C.Thank you to @FoxNews and so many other news outlets for the GREAT reviews of the speech!” Trump said in the first tweet from his personal Twitter account of his presidency.
Hours earlier, he swept into several inaugural balls with First Lady Melania Trump, and the couple danced to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” The President told the crowd at one event that even people who had not been nice to him said “we did a really good job today. They hated to it but they did it. And I respect that. I respect that.”
The impact of Trump’s inaugural address was reverberating around the world on Saturday. Foreign newspapers narrowed in on the nationalistic turn in US foreign policy.
“Trump offers fearful vision as he promises ‘America First,'” the Irish Times said in a front page splash. The Dawn newspaper in Pakistan highlighted Trump’s inaugural vow to unite the world against “radical Islamic terrorism.”
One of the world’s most important leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to work with Trump to find “compromises and solutions” on the basis of mutual respect. Asked at a news conference about Trump’s address and its America-first tone, she said: “I believe firmly that it is best for all of us if we work together based on rules, common values and joint action in the international economic system, in the international trade system, and make our contributions to the military alliances.”
“And second, the trans-Atlantic relationship will not be less important in the coming years than it was in past years.”
Trump raised eyebrows in an interview while he was still President-elect in which he said he had similar levels of respect for Merkel, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is widely regarded as a US enemy in Washington.
Some changes were already evident in the Oval Office Friday night. Red drapes had been replaced with yellow drapes. A bust of Winston Churchill had been returned after an eight year absence during the Obama administration. And the carpet was a new sunburst pattern.