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.
He 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 planned to hold a farewell event with administration veterans and other supporters. After that, he and Mrs. Trump were to board Air Force One for the journey to Florida, where they will reside.
The helicopter lifted into the blue Washington sky, passed over the Capitol, and landed at Joint Base Andrews soon after, as a loudspeaker at the airport played “Gloria,” the same 1980s pop tune that was blaring backstage moments before he delivered his rally speech to protesters near the White House on Jan. 6.
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, 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,”
Source: New York Times