Donald Trump disappeared on Wednesday behind the walls of his club in Palm Beach, Florida, ending a tumultuous presidency stained by two impeachments, deep political divisions, and a pandemic that has caused 400,000 US deaths. He skipped the Inauguration Day, swearing on of Joe Biden as 46th US President and Kamala Harris as 49th US Vice President.
Trump has joined the list of former US presidents who also did the same however he is the first president, in over 100 years, to not attend the event. There is broad consensus among presidential historians that an outgoing president showing up on Inauguration Day is primarily about the optics, there`s nothing in the Constitution that mandates a president check off this box.
When Donald Trump was sworn in in 2017, former president Barack Obama was also present. But Trump has already announced his absence. In US history, only three presidents have done this so far and in the last 100 years, no president has done this.
In 1801, John Adams boarded a stagecoach and rode out of Washington, DC hours before Thomas Jefferson was to be sworn in as the country`s third president. Adams did not attend. In 1829, after a bitterly fought election rife with personal insults, John Quincy Adams boycotted Andrew Jackson`s swearing-in ceremony. When Jackson`s wife died before the inauguration, the future president blamed his opponent for sparking slander-induced stress.
In 1869, Johnson absented himself from the inauguration of Ulysses S Grant and stayed back in the White House signing last-minute legislation. Grant, on his part, refused to ride with Johnson from the White House to the Capitol for the ceremony.
Richard Nixon took off in a helicopter from the lawns of the White House before Gerald Ford`s swearing-in. The circumstances around the event were rather muted and did not have the pomp and circumstance that is a signature of Inauguration Day. Awash in the Watergate scandal, Nixon handed in his resignation letter and Ford took his oath of office in the White House. Nixon resigned in 1974 over the Watergate scandal.
The Republican president departed the White House with his wife, Melania, saying it had been a great honour to serve and giving a final wave as he boarded the Marine One helicopter for Joint Base Andrews, where he delivered farewell remarks. "So just goodbye. We love you. We will be back in some form," Trump told supporters before boarding Air Force One for the flight to Florida. "Have a good life. We will see you soon."
Trump`s absence does not land as any surprise, considering that he has refused to accept the election results. Biden said he was happy to have Trump stay away. When Harris gets those questions, she usually brushes it aside with a smirk or a laugh. "Don`t worry, Mr President. I`ll see you at your trial," Harris jabbed more than a year ago to a snarky Trump tweet when the second impeachment wasn`t anywhere on the horizon.
The plane then taxied and lifted off as Frank Sinatra`s classic song "My Way" played over the loudspeakers. Air Force One later flew low to give Trump an aerial view of his post-presidential home at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. Before leaving the White House, Trump left a note for his successor, Democrat Joe Biden, a spokesman said, following one small bit of traditional protocol related to the peaceful transfer of power that Trump had otherwise eschewed. Trump has declined to mention Biden`s name even as he wished the incoming administration luck on his way out of office.
Trump, 74, departed hours before Biden`s inauguration. That made him the first outgoing president since 1869 to skip the Inauguration Day ceremony that marks the formal transfer of power, in a final display of pique at his failure to win the Nov. 3 election. Trump`s motorcade slow-rolled past a long line of supporters on his way to Mar-a-Lago. His arrival there was timed to get behind its walls before his term as president expired at noon.
Trump has a long way to go to rebuild an image left in tatters by his presidency, particularly the final months. He has a unique place in history - as the only president ever impeached twice. The Senate is on track to hold a trial on the impeachment charge brought by the Democratic-led House of Representatives that Trump incited an insurrection in connection with the Jan. 6 deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol by his supporters. Its outcome could determine whether he will be disqualified from running again for president.
Trump maintained to his last days in office that the election was stolen from him, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Courts have rejected his campaign`s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud and his vice president, Mike Pence, led Congress in certifying Biden`s victory over Trump`s objections.
The Washington that Trump left behind was guarded by 25,000 National Guard troops, while the National Mall, traditionally thronged with spectators on Inauguration Day, was closed to the public because of threats of further violence. While preoccupied with fighting the election results, Trump failed to control the spiralling coronavirus outbreak in the United States, which has the most deaths of any country. Pandemic-related shutdowns and restrictions have also cost millions of Americans their jobs.
Trump on Wednesday acknowledged the suffering caused by the pandemic. He had downplayed the risks of the coronavirus in the pandemic`s early stages and did not model consistent wearing of a mask to stop its spread. Trump, a former real estate tycoon who owns 17 golf resorts around the world, faces a gigantic task rebuilding his brand.