Washington, January 20
Donald Trump on Wednesday skipped his successor Joe Biden’s inauguration and exited the White House for the last time as US president, saying he had “an amazing four years” and hoping that it would not be a “long goodbye”.
Trump left the White House on the Marine One presidential helicopter along with his wife Melania, hours before Biden’s inauguration.
Following a short helicopter flight to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, he received a sendoff ceremony with a red carpet, military band, a 21-gun salute and crowd of about 200 guests in attendance.
He then boarded a final flight on Air Force One to begin his post-presidential life at his palatial Mar-a-Lago golf club in Palm Beach.
Trump, 74, had already announced that he will not attend the inauguration of Biden as President and Kamala Harris as the Vice President.
He thus became the first president to skip his successor’s inauguration since Andrew Johnson in 1869.
Trump also did not extend an invitation to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
The meeting between sitting presidents and vice presidents and their successors is a time-honoured tradition that represents the peaceful transfer of power.
Walking down a red carpet rolled out for the departing leader, Trump and Melania both wearing black posed for a picture.
“It was an honour of a lifetime,” Trump said before departing the White House.
He said he just wanted to walk over and say “goodbye” and it will “not hopefully be a long goodbye”. There is speculation that he might soon announce his 2024 re-election bid.
Trump, a Republican, became the first US president to lose a re-election bid since 1992. In 1992, George HW Bush failed to win his second bid for the White House.
In his remarks at the Joint Andrews Air Force Base, Trump said: “It is my greatest honour and privilege to be your president.”
“We have the greatest country in the world,” he said.
“The future of this country has never been better,” Trump said.
“We’ve had an amazing four years, we’ve accomplished a lot,” Trump said before boarding Air Force One. He listed what he saw as his greatest accomplishments, including rebuilding the military.
“You are amazing people. This is a great, great country,” Trump said to a crowd of his family and staff.
While he wished the next administration “great luck,” Trump did not mention President-elect Biden by name.
“Will be back in some form,” he said amidst loud applause from his supporters. “We will see you soon,” Trump said.
He thanked his supporters and promised that the movement that swept him to power four years ago was just getting started.
“We’ve left it all on the field,” he said, to cheers from his supporters.
“We left it all, as the athletes would say, we left it all on the field,” he said.
“We had a lot of obstacles, and we went through the obstacles.”
Vice President Mike Pence did not attend Trump’s farewell and is instead scheduled to attend Biden’s inauguration.
In his last hours, Trump granted clemency to more than 140 people, including his former adviser Steve Bannon, who is facing fraud charges.
He departed when Washington D.C. is under militarised fortification meant to prevent a repeat of the riot by his supporters earlier this month.
Trump, who has ignored many of the farewell traditions of former administrations, on Tuesday released a video farewell address instead of the typically live, prime-time speech given by past presidents.
Extending his “best wishes” and praying for the success of the new administration in keeping America safe and prosperous, Trump in his farewell address has said that Americans must unify around their shared values and rise above partisan rancour to forge their common destiny.
Trump said he embarked on a mission to make America great again— for all Americans.
“I took on the tough battles, the hardest fights, the most difficult choices because that’s what you elected me to do. Your needs were my first and last unyielding focus.
“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. We did what we came here to do—and so much more,” he said.
Trump said to serve as the President has been an honour beyond description.
“This week, we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous. We extend our best wishes, and we also want them to have luck—a very important word,” Trump said.
In his message, Trump addressed the storming of the US Capitol by his supporters on January 6, which is considered as one of the darkest days in the history of American democracy.
Trump, who lost his re-election bid to Democratic opponent and former US Vice President Biden, 78, in a bitterly-fought campaign marked by a resurgent COVID-19 pandemic, never conceded his defeat.
Instead, he made unsubstantiated allegations of fraud in elections, charges dismissed by authorities and some senior members of his own Republican Party.
He left the White House with a tainted legacy never seen before in American political history.
Meanwhile, some US media outlets reported that Trump may start a new political party as he was disgusted with Senate Republicans who will soon decide whether the ex-president should be convicted during his impeachment trial.
In his farewell message video, Trump vowed his movement will carry on.
The Wall Street Journal first reported Trump’s interest in a new party, saying he would call it the Patriot Party”. — PTI