Inauguration Eve: Trump juggles work, play, preps to party

FILE PHOTO - In this Oct. 3, 2009, file photo, the University of Tennessee‚ Pride of the Southland Band performs before an NCAA college football game in Knoxville, Tenn. The band will perform in its 15th presidential inaugural parade since 1953 on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, a decades-old tradition its band director said transcends politics and the national divisions.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Wade Payne, File

WASHINGTON - Juggling work and play on Inauguration Eve, Donald Trump filled his final Cabinet slot Thursday and headed to Washington for three days of festivities.

The president-elect was trading in his beloved private jet for a military jet to ferry him from New York to a city bracing for an onslaught of inaugural crowds and demonstrators numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, in a tweet, called Inauguration Eve "a momentous day before a historic day," as security barricades and blockades went up around Washington in preparation for Friday's swearing-in ceremony and all of the hoopla and hand-wringing that comes with it.

"We are all ready to go to work," Pence said at a morning news conference. "In fact, we can't wait to get to work for the American people to make it great again."

Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said he'd be putting on his "favourite DHS jacket" and taking to the streets to inspect security preparations for the inaugural festivities.

He told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that areas where inaugural crowds will congregate will be "extra fortified this year with dump trucks, heavily armoured vehicles to prevent anybody who's not authorized from being in the area from driving something in there." He said there was "no specific credible threat" related to the inauguration.

First up for Trump on Thursday's schedule of inaugural events: a wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery. Next, a welcome concert on the steps of Lincoln Memorial ending with fireworks.

The two-hour concert, open to the public, was to feature country star Toby Keith, soul's Sam Moore, actor Jon Voight and The Piano Guys. Also performing: Lee Greenwood, DJ RaviDrums, 3 Doors Down, and The Frontmen of Country, featuring Tim Rushlow, Larry Stewart and Richie McDonald.

It won't include singer Jennifer Holliday, originally announced as one of the headliners. She backed out after an outcry from Trump critics.

Before departing for Washington, Trump announced his final Cabinet choice: former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue for agriculture secretary.

Ebullient Trump fans were ready for a three-day party.

New York Republicans kicked off their inauguration festivities with a breakfast Thursday morning at a downtown hotel.

The crowd, smushed into a ballroom to hear former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, roared as New York GOP Chairman Ed Cox boasted that a kid from Queens was going to be the next president of the United States.

"It's going to be a remarkable couple of days," Gingrich said. "Certainly this is the inauguration that no one in the news media was ready for."

He went on to describe Trump as "part P.T. Barnum" and predicted he would be one of the country's most accomplished presidents.

Keeping a wary eye on the weather forecast for Inauguration Day, the National Park Service announced that it was easing its "no umbrella" policy for Friday, allowing collapsible umbrellas along the parade route and on the National Mall.

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Associated Press Writer Julie Bykowicz contributed to this report.

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Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/nbenac


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