Donald Trump left the White House for the final time as president Wednesday morning, snubbing President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration as he officially ended a term filled with lies, racism, sexism, economic debt, disease, hate and American carnage.
Trump boarded Marine One at the White House just after 8 a.m. and traveled to Maryland’s Joint Base Andrews for a military-style sendoff featuring a military band and a red carpet lined with armed services personnel.
Read live updates on the inauguration below.
“We were not a regular administration,” Trump said in a rambling speech at Andrews that touched on the economy, the Space Force and the coronavirus pandemic, which he referred to again with the racist term “the China virus.”
“As the athletes would say, we’ve left it all on the field,” he said.
“Have a good life, we will see you soon,” he added.
Trump then boarded Air Force One — while he still could — to travel to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida before Biden was to be sworn in at noon.
The country’s top Republicans said Tuesday that they would skip Trump’s departure ceremony in favor of attending inaugural activities with Biden. Vice President Mike Pence was not expected to attend the sendoff and planned to be at Biden’s inauguration — the latest sign that Trump’s relationship with one of his most loyal allies had soured.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) both accepted Biden’s invitation to attend Mass at a church in Washington at about the time of Trump’s sendoff, according to Axios.
Trump previously said he would not attend Biden’s inauguration, in which the new president will take the oath of office in a pared-down ceremony with extremely heightened security.
Only a handful of presidents in U.S. history, all in the 1800s, boycotted their successor’s inauguration or left Washington early. (Richard Nixon did not attend Gerald Ford’s inauguration after Nixon resigned in 1974 as he faced impeachment in the Watergate scandal.) Outgoing presidents usually attend their successor’s inauguration as a sign of respect and a signal of a peaceful transition of power.
But Trump had long shown he had no intention of peacefully transferring power to the Biden administration, as shown by his repeated false claims that the November election was “stolen” from him and by his goading of fervent followers from across the country to storm the U.S. Capitol in an effort to overturn the election results.
On Jan. 6, the day Congress convened to certify results of the election won by Biden, armed pro-Trump rioters — some donning racist, white nationalist symbols — overran police lines and rampaged through the government building where Pence and lawmakers were gathered. They violently threatened journalists, attacked law enforcement officers and hunted members of Congress with intent to harm. Five people died as a result of the insurrection, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.
After that, Trump’s White House staff began to leave in droves while federal and local authorities worked to track down and arrest hundreds of insurrectionists, some of whom said they were following Trump’s orders.
Exactly one week after the riot, members of the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump 237-197, making him the only U.S. president to be impeached twice. Ten Republicans joined all Democrats in favor of charging the president with inciting an insurrection. Trump now faces a trial in the Senate, which will take place during Biden’s presidency.
Democratic lawmakers have roundly condemned Trump and other Republican lawmakers’ roles in repeatedly and dangerously lying about the election being fraudulent. Only a couple of Republican senators called for Trump to resign or voiced support for impeachment.
In his last address to the country as president, Trump told Americans on Tuesday: “We did what we came to do.”
We did what we came to do. Donald J. Trump
“In America, we don’t insist on absolute conformity or enforce rigid orthodoxies and punitive speech codes,” he said in a recorded video, appearing to defend the violent rhetoric that incited the insurrection.
“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 continued. “There’s never been anything like it.”
Because of the Capitol siege, Washington heightened security to war zone-like levels in preparation for the inauguration and in anticipation of more extremist violence. More than 20,000 National Guard troops are stationed near the Capitol and around the city, a much higher number than the 8,000 who were in attendance for Trump’s inauguration four years ago.
Downtown Washington went on lockdown late last week, while airlines increased security protocols for flights going to and from the nation’s capital. And because of the pandemic, the National Mall replaced what would normally be seats for inauguration attendees with hundreds of thousands of flags — a fitting farewell to Trump as he departs Washington after 400,000 Americans died of COVID-19 on his watch.
Read live updates on Biden’s inauguration below. (Note: An ad blocker may prevent you from seeing the blog, so if you’re using one, please pause or turn it off.)
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.