Trump’s parting kick: We will be back in some form
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 the re-election to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“Have a good life, we’ll see you soon,” Trump said at the end of off-the-cuff remarks delivered to supporters at Joint Base Andrews, discarding prepared remarks and ignoring advisers who thought he should have thanked Biden by name.
“We were not a regular administration,” Trump said, delivering a truncated version of his self-aggrandising 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.
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 8.18am (local time) 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 Melania Trump boarded Air Force One for the journey to Florida, where they will reside.
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 fundraisers 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 1.07am (local time) with an order revoking the ethics rules Trump had imposed on his own former aides.
In slipping out of Washington before the festivities on Wednesday, 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 travelled to the Capitol for Warren G. Harding’s inauguration in 1921, but did not remain because of his failing health.)
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 per cent average approval over the course of his tenure is the lowest of any President in that time.
Trump, however, never came to terms with his defeat in the 2020 election.
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.
In a farewell address he released on video on Tuesday afternoon, Trump took no responsibility for the Capitol siege or for the coronavirus pandemic that has now claimed 400,000 lives in the US.