STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep at the west front of the United States Capitol. I'm here with Audie Cornish and Tamara Keith. We're getting ready for live coverage of the inauguration. We're looking at a lectern covered in plastic against the rain, where President-elect Trump will become President Trump a little bit later on today. Behind it up the way a little bit in the stands, a bunch of people in ivory-colored robes is waiting for their cue.
The Washington National Cathedral choir will be singing in just a little bit as we get into the pre-inaugural festivities. Thousands of people have gathered off to our right, stretching across the National Mall, although I will say there's still plenty of room for more people to come. Many people in American flag-accented clothing - I saw a man in a wheelchair covered with an American flag-themed blanket against the chill.
AUDIE CORNISH, BYLINE: And ponchos, of course, because it has started to rain just a little bit.
INSKEEP: It's a bit spitty out here.
CORNISH: That is expected today. It's interesting because it's sort of like two parallel conversations going on right now. You have the Trump supporters and voters who are here to support this president and this inauguration. And then, meanwhile, throughout the city at the checkpoints, there are protesters. At least one checkpoint area, our reporters are saying, was shut down near the Canadian Embassy due to protesters. And so you have kind of two groups of people. They're not of the same size but definitely gearing up for the day.
And Tamara, you've been out talking with some of the folks in our area - right?
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Yeah. And I was out chatting with the people who got here relatively early, who have decent spots pretty close to the action.
CORNISH: Right. And you need tickets to get into this area.
CORNISH: They're free, but you needed to get on it.
KEITH: Yes. And one woman I talked to - talking about people who support and people who don't support - a woman I talked to, Michelle Davern (ph) and her son Andrew Gutierrez (ph) - they came from Delaware. They asked their senator for tickets - they requested them before the election - they're Hillary Clinton supporters. But they decided to come anyway. I asked her what she was hoping for in the speech from President-elect Trump, and she said that she wants him to deliver a speech that's going to make her feel like it's going to be OK.
INSKEEP: You know, and I'm impressed that she came because so many people have talked of boycotting this inauguration, not even watching it on television.
CORNISH: We should note Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton herself are expected to be here.
INSKEEP: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. But this woman saw things differently - that this was an occasion to come to and to share.
KEITH: To witness history, to witness democracy in action - she felt like it was important to be here.
I also talked to some Trump supporters, David and Molly McGrath (ph) from Connecticut. They are feeling very hopeful. You know, the way that liberals are feeling right now, the dread that liberals are feeling right now is the way they say they've been feeling for the last eight years. And, you know, they didn't initially support Donald Trump. But then, when he won the nomination, they got behind him. They're excited, though they are less excited about the tweeting.
INSKEEP: Tweeting - and we've actually heard that from a lot of voters. And in fact, it shows up in surveys. It's been an unusual transition, one in which the president-elect has not enjoyed the huge boost in popularity ratings that you would normally get for a president in transition who's not having to make any of the really tough decisions yet. His approval rating has been in the low 40s at best in recent days.
Let's go to a voice of someone who's going to be working with this new president, from one side of the Capitol to the other. Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma is on the line. Congressman, where are you?
TOM COLE: Hey, I'm actually in my office looking down at you guys (laughter)...
INSKEEP: Oh, awesome.
COLE: ...Right onto the Capitol grounds from the Rayburn. So I've got this spectacular view in front of me.
INSKEEP: Oh, the Rayburn office building.
KEITH: We're waving.
INSKEEP: We're waving. We're waving at you, Congressman.
COLE: Well, I'm waving back.
INSKEEP: We're the people who are slightly wet. We just heard a couple of people explain, through Tamara Keith, what they want to hear from the president-elect today. What do you think he needs to say to the nation?
COLE: Well, I actually agree with a couple of the comments. I think this is very much a time to try and unify people and to try and reassure people. Obviously, it was a very tough, hard-fought election. And when you lose one like this, it's hard. I've been on both sides of this, so I understand how my friends on the other side of the aisle feel. But it's important that we reaffirm that, hey, there are things that unite us as Americans. This is one of them. The peaceful transfer of power in the greatest democracy in the history of the world is a pretty extraordinary thing to see. So I hope and I believe Mr. Trump will, you know, take advantage of the opportunity, and we'll move forward from there.
INSKEEP: Is there anything different that you would want the president-elect to do once he becomes president compared to the way that he has been during the transition?
COLE: Well, you know, I think people can want it. But I think Donald Trump is going to do things his way. He is a very unusual person to be the president the United States. He's really unprecedented. We've never had a president that had no public experience before, either in uniform or as an elected official. And quite frankly, I think that's one of the reasons he won. People want a dramatic change in this town, so his persona is part of that.
But I guess I would probably come down. A little less tweeting would be good. And I think he actually will do a very good job of engaging members of Congress in a way, with all due respect to President Obama, he didn't like to do. I mean, I get the impression that Trump is a very gregarious guy. I got a call from him once myself out of the blue after doing an interview. All of a sudden, Donald Trump's on the phone - hey, I liked that interview - just wanted to chat with you. I'd never met the guy.
INSKEEP: (Unintelligible) Start paying attention to the media, for sure.
COLE: So I think members will like that.
INSKEEP: He's somebody who attacks the media from time to time but certainly consumes a lot.
I want to ask about one other thing, Congressman. Many people are partying at the Trump International Hotel a short distance from where we are here. There are questions about conflicts of interest. I know what the law is. But ethics lawyers had urged the president-elect to do much more to separate himself from his business. Do you think Congress needs to do anything about that?
COLE: Well, I think it probably needs to look at it. And look, I think Mr. Trump is certainly aware of that. But on the other hand, you have to reckon that this is a family business and they shouldn't have to sell everything and give up everything that, collectively, for over three generations, they worked for to build. So he's going to have to be extra special careful. And he's going to be under extraordinary scrutiny. And hopefully, that will be the check that you need.
But I find it hard to believe somebody that's worth $3 billion dollars is worried about enriching themselves. I mean, he's not taking a salary. If anything, he's walking away from a lot. So, you know - and he's never made his money particularly in government. That's just not what he's done. So I guess I'm a little more reassured than some of the critics, but I recognize the legitimacy of their concerns.
INSKEEP: Congressman, it's always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you very much.
COLE: Hey, thank you. Have a great day.
INSKEEP: Tom Cole is a Republican congressman from Oklahoma. We are at the west front of the United States Capitol a few hours away from the inauguration. Let's go back to NPR headquarters.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Thanks so much, Steve.
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