Donald Trump made his last address to the American people as their president on Tuesday afternoon in a video released during the final hours of his tumultuous and divisive term in office.
“As I conclude my term as the 45th president of the United States, I stand before you truly proud of what we have achieved together,” Trump began.
“This week, we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous,” he continued, adding: “We also want them to have luck, a very important word.” (See video of the speech above.)
“We did what we came here to do ― and so much more. Above all, we have reasserted the sacred idea that in America, the government answers to the people,” Trump said. “We restored the idea that in America, no one is forgotten ― because everyone matters and everyone has a voice.”
He dubbed himself the only “true” outsider ever elected to the White House as he reflected on his entry into national politics.
Falsely casting his time in office as an effort to unify Americans, Trump claimed that his agenda “wasn’t about Republican or Democrat, but about the good of a nation, and that means the whole nation,” despite having spent his entire presidency vilifying his political opponents.
He then spent much of the nearly 20-minute video going through a laundry list of his administration’s deeds, including erecting “more than 450 miles of powerful new wall” along the country’s 2,000-mile border with Mexico, even though only about 80 miles were in areas there was previously no barrier. Trump waxed nostalgic about the pre-pandemic economy, which he dubbed a “miracle,” and seemed to suggest that strong economy has returned despite rising unemployment claims.
For months, Trump refused to concede that he lost the 2020 election to President-elect Joe Biden, choosing instead to fan the flames of conspiracy theories positing that he in fact won.
He appeared to defend his violent rhetoric on Tuesday, saying, “In America, we don’t insist on absolute conformity or enforce rigid orthodoxies and punitive speech codes.”
Biden is nevertheless scheduled to take the oath of office on Wednesday at noon in a pared-down inauguration ceremony with souped-up security. More than 20,000 National Guard troops will be stationed around the nation’s capital ― many more than the 8,000 who were present for Trump’s inaugural four years ago.
Earlier on Wednesday, the outgoing president is expected to take one final ride aboard Air Force One to Florida, where he will resume civilian life at his club Mar-a-Lago.
It is tradition for presidents to deliver a farewell address at the close of their time in office. But the use of video was unusual, an apparent bow in part to the risks of the coronavirus, just as the pandemic’s U.S. death toll surpasses 400,000 under Trump’s watch.
By comparison, President Barack Obama delivered his goodbye speech in a crowded Chicago convention center on Jan. 10, 2017. After mentioning then-incoming President Trump, Obama fended off boos from his audience, emphasizing instead the importance of a peaceful transition of power in American democracy.
“I committed to President-elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me,” Obama said.
Before him, Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton delivered their final addresses from the White House in the days leading up to their departure from office.
Trump has chosen to communicate with the nation largely by way of recorded statements since a mob of his supporters breached the U.S. Capitol building on the afternoon of Jan. 6. In his farewell address, Trump said that “all Americans were horrified by the assault on our Capitol.”
“Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated,” he said.
Although Trump’s harsh attacks on Mike Pence had led his supporters to call for the vice president’s death two weeks ago, Trump went on to thank Pence, “his wonderful wife, Karen, and the entire Pence family” in his farewell video.
Five people died as a direct result of the insurrection, including an officer with the U.S. Capitol Police.
Since then, the Trump White House has hemorrhaged staff while FBI agents have worked to track down those who participated in the deadly rioting. More than 125 people have been arrested so far by local and federal authorities on charges relating to the insurrection, according to The Associated Press.
“Now, 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. “There’s never been anything like it.”