Inauguration Live Updates: Trump Leaves White House as Joe Biden Prepares to Assume the Presidency
Having issued a raft of pardons overnight, President Trump defied convention by skipping his successor’s swearing-in.
After taking the oath of office, President-elect Joe Biden plans to sign executive orders aimed at reversing policies on issues including the environment and immigration.
Trump leaves the White House for the last time, and is said to leave a note for Biden
President Trump departed the White House on Wednesday morning for the last time as the commander in chief after four tumultuous years that shook the nation, choosing to leave town rather than face the reality that he lost re-election to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“Have a good life, we will see you soon,” Mr. Trump said at the end of off-the-cuff remarks delivered to supporters at Joint Base Andrews, discarding a prepared statement and ignoring advisers who thought he should have thanked Mr. Biden by name.
“We were not a regular administration,” Mr. Trump said, delivering a truncated version of his self-aggrandizing campaign rally speech, and imploring those gathered — most without masks — to “remember” all of his accomplishments.
“We will be back in some form,” he added, before walking away from his last appearance as the nation’s commander in chief to the strains of “Y.M.C.A.” by the Village People. His vice president, Mike Pence, did not attend his farewell event.
Despite flouting most of the conventions associated with the peaceful transfer of power, Mr. Trump did abide by one presidential norm — leaving the traditional note to Mr. Biden in the Oval Office, according to a White House official.
It was not clear what the letter said.
Mr. Trump left the White House on a red carpet, hand in hand with Melania Trump, who wore a dark suit and sunglasses, and spoke briefly with reporters before boarding his helicopter, where he stood in the doorway one last instant, waving goodbye with his right hand.
The Marine One helicopter took off from the South Lawn of the White House at about 8:18 a.m. for the short flight to Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland, where the president held the farewell event, including a 21-gun salute, with administration veterans and other supporters. After that, he and Mrs. Trump boarded Air Force One for the journey to Florida, where they will reside.
Mr. Trump surrendered the building after a late night of signing last-minute pardons and other clemency orders for 143 people, including Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist; Elliott Broidy, one of his top fund-raisers in 2016; and a series of politicians convicted of corruption. The White House did not announce the pardons until after midnight and then followed up at 1:07 a.m. with an order revoking the ethics rules Mr. Trump had imposed on his own former aides.
In slipping out of Washington before the festivities on Wednesday, Mr. Trump capped a norm-busting tenure by defying one last convention. He refused to host the traditional coffee that presidents hold for their successors at the White House on the morning of the inauguration. And he opted to skip the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol, normally a symbol of the American tradition of peaceful transfer of power that is attended by both departing and incoming presidents.
No president has refused to attend his successor’s inauguration since 1869, when Andrew Johnson, miffed that Ulysses S. Grant would not share a carriage with him to the Capitol, refused at the last minute to get into the separate carriage arranged for him and skipped the ceremony. (Woodrow Wilson traveled to the Capitol for Warren G. Harding’s inauguration in 1921, but did not remain for the ceremony because of his failing health.)
Mr. Trump leaves office by one measure as the most unpopular president in the history of polling. He is the only president since Gallup began surveys under Harry S. Truman to never garner the support of a majority of the public for a single day of his presidency, and his 41 percent average approval over the course of his tenure is the lowest of any president in that time.
Mr. Trump, however, never came to terms with his defeat in the 2020 election.
“Could you imagine if I lose?” he said at a rally in Georgia in October. “My whole life, what am I going to do? I’m going to say I lost to the worst candidate in the history of politics. I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country. I don’t know.”
Mr. Trump, who went on to lose by seven million votes in the popular tally and 306-232 in the Electoral College, spent the two months after the election trying to overturn the results with false allegations of widespread fraud that were rejected by Republican and Democratic election officials and scores of judges, including some whom he had appointed.
The House last week impeached Mr. Trump for inciting an insurrection after a crowd of his supporters attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, and the Senate is poised to put him on trial in days, even though he will no longer be in office. Although it will be too late to remove him from power, a Senate conviction would amount to a bipartisan repudiation in the history books, and lawmakers could also disqualify him from holding office again, thwarting his talk of running for president again in 2024.
In a farewell address he released on video Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Trump took no responsibility for the Capitol siege or for the coronavirus pandemic that has now claimed 400,000 lives in the United States.
Instead, he boasted of his accomplishments cutting taxes, eliminating regulations, appointing conservative judges and revising trade deals. “The movement we started,” he said, “is only just beginning,”
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris attended Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in downtown Washington on Wednesday morning, joined by congressional leaders from both parties in a display of unity after weeks of tumult.
Also in attendance were Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader; Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader; Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California; and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader.
At the corner of 17th Street and Rhode Island Avenue, a crowd of journalists, police officers and curious onlookers stood behind a waist-high metal fence, straining to see the president-elect as he walked into the church.
The streets were still wet after an early morning rain, but the sun was shining, lighting up the dome of the church and its brick red wall.
“I’m just here hoping to get a glimpse,” said Brittany Rogers, 35, a security guard from Baltimore who was visiting Washington for the day. “This is a new beginning, a fresh start. I feel really good.”
Mr. Biden, a Catholic who regularly attends Mass, was accompanied by his wife, Jill Biden. Ms. Harris was joined by her husband, Doug Emhoff.
Mr. Biden will become only the second Catholic to hold the presidency — the first was John F. Kennedy — and is likely to swear his oath of office on a hefty family Bible, accented with a Celtic cross. Kennedy’s funeral ceremony was held at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in 1963.
A stillness gripped the nation’s capital on Wednesday, with armed soldiers encircling the stage where Joseph R. Biden Jr. was set to take the oath of office at noon to become the 46th president of the United States.
President Trump, who largely disappeared from public view after an insurrectionist mob stormed the Capitol, urged on by his baseless claims that the election was stolen, left the White House early Wednesday and after a short farewell ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland was scheduled to fly to Florida.
Even before Mr. Biden was sworn in, he sought to set a new tone for a nation torn by political strife in the midst of the deadliest pandemic in a century.
On Tuesday night, for the first time since the coronavirus started its deadly march across the country a year ago, a vigil was held to commemorate the more than 400,000 Americans who have died.
“To heal we must remember,” Mr. Biden said, standing in front of the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial. “It’s hard sometimes to remember. But that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here today.”
There were no crowds, just 400 lights flickering in memory of the lives lost.