First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Six reasons why today isn’t your typical inauguration
The ceremonies and festivities for Donald J. Trump’s presidential inauguration follow a familiar script — an early church service near the White House, a visit with the outgoing president and first lady, the oath of office, the inaugural address, and the parade. But this isn’t your typical inauguration, and here are six reasons why:
1. Trump enters office as the most unpopular incoming president in the history of the NBC/WSJ poll.
His fav/unfav numbers stand at 38% positive, 48% negative (vs. Obama’s 67%-13% in Jan. 2009, Bush 43’s 50%-30%, and Bill Clinton’s 64%-16% in 1993). In addition, only 44% approve of Trump’s transition handling (vs. 71% for Barack Obama in Jan. 2009 and 77% for Bill Clinton in Dec. 1992). In other words, there’s been little to no honeymoon.
2. Trump will be violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause on Day One, according to critics.
Here’s Richard Painter, who was George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer from 2005-2007: “[T]he Emoluments Clause bans payments to an American public official from foreign governments. Yet they will arise whenever foreign diplomats stay in Trump hotels at their governments’ expense; whenever parties are organized by foreign governments in Trump hotels … ; whenever loans are made to the company by the Bank of China or any other foreign-government-owned bank; whenever rent is paid by companies controlled by foreign governments with offices in Trump buildings; and whenever there is any other arrangement whereby foreign government money goes into the president’s businesses.” That Trump didn’t divest his business means he will be violating the Emoluments Clause, argue Painter and other ethics watchdogs.
3. He continues to face asterisks next to his win, including the conclusion from the U.S. intelligence community that Russia tried to help him win.
The latest here from the New York Times: “American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said. The continuing counterintelligence investigation means that Mr. Trump will take the oath of office on Friday with his associates under investigation and after the intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had worked to help elect him.” Per NBC’s Pete Williams and Ken Dilanian, “Current and former officials have told NBC News that there has for some time been an FBI counter intelligence investigation, enlisting the help of other intelligence agencies, focusing mainly on how the Russians sought to hack and otherwise influence the election, how the operation was paid for, and whether any Americans were involved. NBC News has not specifically confirmed that investigators are examining communications intercepts and financial data as part of that probe, but it would be standard practice to do so.”
4. Trump’s outreach — or lack thereof — to his opponents and the millions of Americans who didn’t vote for him pales in comparison to the outreach from Obama in 2008-2009 and George W. Bush in 2000-2001.
Obama included a handful of prominent Republicans in his administration (like Bob Gates as Defense secretary, Ray LaHood as Transportation secretary, Jon Huntsman as ambassador to China, and John McHugh as Army secretary). Moreover, Obama threw an inaugural ball in honor of opponent John McCain. And even going back to the disputed 2000 election, George W. Bush at least met with Al Gore (on Dec. 19, 2000), and picked a Democratic politician (Norm Mineta) to be a part of his cabinet. By contrast, Trump’s cabinet doesn’t include a single Democratic politician, and he never once met with Hillary Clinton after the election. (In fact, today will be the first time since the Al Smith Dinner of Oct. 2016 that the two of them have been at the same event.) And it was just a week ago when Trump tweeted that Clinton was “guilty as hell.”
5. Dozens of Democratic lawmakers won’t be attending the inauguration — the biggest boycott from the opposition we’ve seen in modern times.
It started with John Lewis’ bombshell comment to one us, and it has continued ever since. As Lewis later acknowledged, he didn’t attend George W. Bush’s inaugural in 2001, but there’s no comparing the size of the 2001 boycott to what’s happening today.
6. Team Trump has had a very slow start filling the government.
As Trump takes the oath of office today, his team has announced nominees for just 30 out of 690 confirmable positions, according to the Washington Post and the Partnership for Service. In addition, none of Trump’s cabinet picks so far have yet to be confirmed as of Inauguration Day -- compared with three for Bill Clinton at this same point in time, seven for George W. Bush, and seven for Barack Obama. Now you can blame Senate Democrats for the slow pace of Senate confirmations, but you can’t blame them for Team Trump announcing just 4% of their confirmable nominees (30 out of 690). As the Times writes, “Mr. Trump will be sworn in at noon Eastern time on Friday, but his team was still scrambling to fill key administration posts when he got here on Thursday, announcing last-minute plans to retain 50 essential State Department and national security officials currently working in the Obama administration to ensure ‘continuity of government,’ according to Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary.”