Trump leaves White House for last time, snubbing Biden's inauguration

US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump make their way to board Marine One before departing from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2021.
US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump make their way to board Marine One before departing from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2021. © Mandel Nga, AFP

US President Donald Trump left the White House for the final time on Wednesday, heading by helicopter to a nearby military base where he flew to Florida, skipping the inauguration of successor Joe Biden in an extraordinary break with tradition.

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Trump, 74, and First Lady Melania Trump walked a short red carpet and boarded Marine One on the White House lawn on a sunny but chilly day in Washington for the short flight to Joint Base Andrews, where he will board Air Force One.

In brief remarks to reporters, Trump said it had been an "amazing four years" and the "honour of a lifetime".

"So just a 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."

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 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 departed hours before Biden’s inauguration, making him the first outgoing president since 1869 to skip the Inauguration Day ceremony in a final display of pique at his failure to win the November 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.

“I will always fight for you. I will be watching. I will be listening. And I will tell you that the future of this country has never been better,” Trump said in his farewell remarks. “I wish the new administration great luck and great success. I think they’ll have great success. They have the foundation to do something really spectacular.”

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 January 6 deadly storming of the US Capitol by his supporters. Its outcome could determine whether he will be disqualified from running again for president.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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