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Utahns take center stage at Trump inauguration

Editor's note: This story is part of the coverage for the presidential inauguration from Washington D.C. Continuing coverage of Inauguration Day 2017 will be provided. Watch the inauguration live Friday morning here.

WASHINGTON — Utahns and Mormons will be front and center today as Donald Trump is sworn in as America's 45th president, adding both substance and pomp and circumstance to his inauguration.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, will have a prominent role in the new president's escort party, and as the Senate's president pro tem, he already has signed the first bill Trump will sign into law the moment he leaves the inauguration.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir couldn't possibly play a bigger role in the swearing-in ceremony. The choir's rendition of "America, the Beautiful" is scheduled to be the fulcrum between the oaths of office for Trump and Vice president-elect Mike Pence.

Friday's inauguraton program begins at 11:30 a.m. Washington time (9:30 a.m. Mountain), with the new president to take his oath of office precisely at noon on Jan. 20, as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.

Among the more than 2,250 Utahns known to have tickets to the inauguration are 18 students from American Fork High School who each saved up $3,000 over the past year to make a weeklong pilgrimage that one said has been life-changing.

Meanwhile, Utah's Congressional delegation and the state's governor spent Thursday in strategy huddles as they looked ahead to efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare and to rescind President Obama's December declaration of the Bear's Ears National Monument in southern Utah.

Thursday night, the Piano Guys kicked off several performances by Utah Mormon acts at inauguration events, playing at the Lincoln Memorial Concert in front of President-elect Trump and his family.

"It's time to set all our differences aside and unite our hearts, our minds and our voices," the Piano Guys' Al van der Beek told the crowd between songs.

The Piano Guys, 14-year-old Sandy, Utah, singer Lexi Walker and a 16-year-old DJ from Highland, Utah, will perform at inaugural balls tonight.

Choir in front

The 215 members of the Tabernacle Choir will be prominent throughout the swearing-in ceremony, but their performance comes between the two key moments of the event.

Mike Pence will take the vice presidential oath of office first, using the Reagan family Bible, with the oath administered by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Then the choir will sing "America, the Beautiful," accompanied by the Marine Band known as The President's Own.

Then Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the presidential oath of office to Trump at noon. At that point, Trump will deliver his inaugural address.

"It's a real tribute to our state and our beliefs that we have such a reverance for the presidency and the organization of this country," Hatch said. "Trump is going to be appreciative the choir is there. ... The last time they were here for an inauguration they were on a float. That's not the way for the choir to be involved in an inauguration. They ought to be part of the ceremony."

Ready to sign

The first bill is ready for President Trump's pen, and it already bears Hatch's signature.

Hatch signed Senate Bill 84 on Thursday so it will be ready Friday when Trump walks off the steps of the Capitol after taking the presidential oath and delivering his inaugural address.

The new law clears the path for retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis to become the Secretary of Defense tonight, when the Senate is expected to roundly confirm his nomination. Until Trump signs it, Mattis is ineligible to take the position because he retired in 2013. Federal law mandates military officers wait seven years beyond active duty to serve in that role.

Trump will sign the bill in the Senate reception area immediately after the inaugural address.

Hatch's role in the first order of business in the Trump administration is a result of his position as the president pro tem of the Senate. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., signed the bill as the speaker of the House, preparing it for Trump.

The Senate and House passed the bill a week ago.

As the Senate president pro tem and the senior Republican in the Senate, Hatch will play a prominent role in Trump's escort party, his office said Thursday.

School trip

Madison Flinders worked extra hours at Roxberry this year to raise about $3,000 to join 17 other American Fork High School students on a trip to New York and Washington, D.C. for the inauguration.

An adviser at the school suggested the trip a year ago. The student body president, Flinders, 17, said the students decided then that they'd go and support the new president no matter who won.

The group flew to New York on Sunday and visited Central Park, Times Square, the 9/11 Memorial and the Empire State Building. They also went to Cirque de Soleil Paramour on Broadway. On Wednesday, they bused to Washington, where they've visited the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, the Holocaust Museum, the Smithsonian, Arlington National Cemetery and the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Thursday afternoon, they talked to and took pictures with Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Congresswoman Mia Love, both R-Utah.

"This has changed me," Flinders said. "It makes me want to lead out with more dignity and respect and treat everyone equally and with love."

It also will make her history lessons come alive, she said.

"I think every American deserves the chance to come on this trip because it awakens so much."

She plans to attend BYU, Utah Valley University or BYU-Idaho next fall, then serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She's thought about studying education.

"This trip has honestly opened my eyes to politics," she said, "so I need to go home and ponder what to do. It's a whole world I didn't even think about before."

Political change

Chaffetz, Love, Hatch and Congressman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, all said they hope to persuade President Trump to rescind Obama's Bear's Ears Monument declaration. Chaffetz and Bishop both called Obama's move an egregious overuse of executive power. Hatch called it offensive.

"If it was created with a stroke of a pen, it can be undone with a stroke of a pen," Chaffetz said.

Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Chris Stewart, both R-Utah, joined the others in a full meeting of the Utah Congressional delegation in Hatch's offices on Thursday morning to consider their strategy. Chaffetz said he has spoken to Pence about it already. Hatch has spoken to the Ryan Zinke, Trump's nominee for Secretary of the Interior.

"I know how he feels about states having the ability to make decisions," Love said, who was in the same Congressional class as Zinke. "He believes as we do that this president has the power to rescind the Bear's Ears designation."

"I know our only hope for change is Trump," Hatch said. "We'll have to see if Trump is willing to help us."

Lee, Bishop and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will lead the charge.

"I'd like to see Trump rescind the order," Hatch said. "It's more likely he'd agree to something we would designate."

Herbert attended a roundtable with Republican governors and GOP members of the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday afternoon. They discussed the Republican goals of repealing and replacing Obamacare and overhauling Medicaid.

Other Utahns

Elder D. Todd Christofferson and Elder Gary E. Stevenson, both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, will represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the inauguration.

Herbert, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and Attorney General Sean Reyes will lead a large contingent of politicians and businesspersons from the state, including Republican National Committeewoman Anne-Marie Lampropoulos and her husband, Merit Medical CEO Fred Lampropoulous, Republican National Committeeman Thomas Wright and Don Peay, founder of Trump for President Utah.

Walker, the 14-year-old singing sensation, will sing for the first dance of Pence and his wife at Freedom Ball. Cache Olson, 16, a DJ from Lone Peak High School, will play walk-in music at the ball, then provide a mix of 30-35 songs for its final hour.

The Piano Guys will perform at both the Freedom Ball and the Liberty Ball, both of which will be at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Meanwhile, about 40 Utah Highway Patrol officers will help with security this weekend and a half dozen Utah National Guardsmen and women will provide communications and public affairs support.