Inside Capitol, last-minute inauguration prep is underway


WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – The world’s eyes will be on the United States Capitol’s steps tomorrow as Donald J. Trump is sworn in as the 45th American president.

The multi-tiered platform built to accommodate the presidential event is draped in American flags and has seating for hundreds of VIPs.

Tourists are swirling around the protective fences marking the perimeter as they snap selfies, praise Trump and chatter about hometowns.

Inside the white marble building, though, a markedly quieter activity is underway.

No tours are grouped around entrances or craning to see ceiling murals.

Unaccompanied by their usual staffers, Sen. Jim Inhofe took the underground subway between buildings as Sen. Ed Markey ordered a coffee at the cafeteria.

It’s basically a ghost town, except for last-minute Inauguration Day preparations.

Coveted Capitol offices and members’ “hideaways” are being readied to serve as holding zones for noteworthy guests before they’re paraded to the main stage in a pre-set pecking order.

A riser for network television crews now stands in the main rotunda where Presidents Obama and Trump will pass through on their way to the platform.

On Thursday afternoon, a few cameramen and technical experts double-checked digital streaming feeds and overhead lighting in the newly refurbished dome.

Two rooms over, separated only by Speaker Paul Ryan’s office suite, Statuary Hall is fully decorated for the inaugural luncheon that will follow the official ceremony.

The feat is typically attended by top members of the government’s three branches.

Twenty-four round tables are set with stacks of plates, gold cutlery and rose centerpieces.

What’s still uncertain, planners say, is the final guest list.

A “no photos” sign sits outside the door alongside an armed officer, while staff members scurry around applying finishing touches to the room.

The menu is already finished:

First Course:

· Maine Lobster and Gulf Shrimp with Saffron Sauce and Peanut Crumble

· J. Lohr 2013 Arroyo Vista Chardonnay

Second Course:

· Grilled Seven Hills Angus Beef with Dark Chocolate and Juniper Jus and Potato Gratin

· Delicato Black Stallion 2012 Limited Release Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Third Course:

· Chocolate Soufflé and Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream

· Korbel Natural “Special Inaugural Cuvée” California Champagne

Coverage of the inauguration begins on Friday morning and continues throughout the day.

Mr. Trump’s speech – including any riffs – will determine what makes it into the history books.

But for the time being, its Capitol backdrop is nearly ready to go.Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales

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