Details of the farewell ceremony are still under consideration, according to sources, but may include a color guard and 21-gun salute.
WASHINGTON – If he sticks to the schedule, President Donald Trump will spend his final minutes in office at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Trump is expected to be at the Palm Beach club, which he dubbed the “Winter White House,” when the clock strikes noon on Wednesday, ending a contentious presidential term that closed with days of seclusion after a riot the U.S. Capitol and will be capped with a final military send-off at Joint Base Andrews.
Barring a schedule change, the White House has invited hundreds of supporters to a pomp-and-circumstance ceremony at the air base, one expected to feature a red carpet and military color guard – and perhaps a preview of another Trump presidential run in 2024.
“As I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at Noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning,” Trump said in a taped “farewell address” released Tuesday.
Trump, the first president in more than 150 years to refuse to attend the inauguration of his successor, instead has a solitary schedule that takes him from the White House residence to Mar-a-Lago on inauguration morning.
There are questions as to how many people will travel to Joint Base Andrews to see off Trump.
Republican congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, both critical of Trump in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, won’t be there. They plan to attend a church service with President-elect Joe Biden less than an hour after Trump is scheduled to depart Andrews for one last ride aboard Air Force One.
In invitations to supporters, the White House said guests could bring up to five people to the event, a sign they are trying to pack the crowd.
Even former aides received invitations, but have sent regrets.
That group includes Anthony Scaramucci, who served as White House Communications Director for 11 days in 2017 and is now an outspoken critic of Trump.
Scaramucci said he won’t be attending the Andrews ceremony: “Uh, yeah, I have an appointment to get my fingernails pulled out, so I can’t make it.”
Given the rancor of recent weeks, it’s not known what Trump will do publicly after Wednesday’s exit. He has spoken about another presidential race in 2024, but it’s not known where that stands now.
Trump and his aides once talked about holding a campaign rally on or before the day of Biden’s inauguration. That talk ceased after the riot at the U.S. Capitol that led to Trump’s impeachment.
One thing on Trump’s immediate agenda: Preparing some kind of defense for a Senate impeachment trial on charges of inciting an insurrection.
The Air Force One ride to Mar-a-Lago will end a presidency like no other – and a transition like no other.
In addition to disputes over a COVID pandemic, a government shutdown, immigration, and racial unrest, Trump also was impeached twice. The first time for pressuring the government of Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, the second time for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
Never one to respect political norms, Trump spent the last two months protesting his election loss to Biden in an unprecedented manner. He filed lawsuits, pressured lawmakers and repeated baseless claims of widespread fraud in the election.
His false accusations of election fraud in a half-dozen states fueled extremist supporters who stormed the Capitol, demanding that lawmakers overturn the election.
Trump has spent much of the time since speaking privately with supporters and making the occasional video after being banned from social media websites.
The lame duck president hasn’t made a public appearance since a Jan. 12 trip to South Texas to deliver an immigration speech near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Along the way, Trump has ignored Biden in ways without parallel.
The incumbent president has not met with his successor. It is doubtful that Trump will write the traditional note of encouragement that outgoing presidents leave for successors (as President Barack Obama left for Trump).
In the past, outgoing presidents and first ladies have welcomed new first couples to the White House on the morning of the inauguration. Presidents and presidents-elect have ridden together to Capitol Hill for the ceremony. Afterward, new presidents and first ladies usually pose for pictures at the Capitol with their predecessors. The new president typically sees the new ex-president off to a helicopter for the ride to Andrews air base.
Trump’s absence means none of these traditions will happen Wednesday.
Immediate ex-presidents are given a courtesy plane ride back home. Trump will still be president when he takes his last trip aboard Air Force One.
Trump is the first president to skip the inauguration of his successor since 1869, when impeached President Andrew Johnson avoided the swearing-in of President Ulysses S. Grant.
A father-and-son set of presidents – John Adams in 1801 and John Quincy Adams in 1829 – left Washington before the inaugurations of successors Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.
Some analysts said it’s just as well that Trump won’t be at Biden’s inaugural.
“Don’t need him rolling his eyes and making faces at the camera while Biden speaks,” tweeted historian Michael Beschloss. “When leaders come together to display national civility and unity, it has to be genuine and heartfelt.”
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