Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday left the presidency under a dark cloud of his own making, ending his single four-year term stained by two impeachments, deep political divisions and his handling of a pandemic that has caused 400,000 U.S. deaths.
Trump, 74, left the White House hours before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, making him the first outgoing president since Andrew Johnson in 1869 to skip the Inauguration Day ceremony marking the formal transfer of power, in a final display of pique at his failure to win re-elections.
His arrival at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach was being timed to get him behind the wall of the resort before Trump’s term as president expired.
Banned from Twitter after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump used an old-school method, an emailed press release to distribute a farewell video on Tuesday in which he veered from his usual divisive rhetoric and sounded an upbeat message.
“Now more than ever, we must unify around our shared values and rise above the partisan rancor, and forge our common destiny,” he said. But he did not mention Biden, to whom he has not formally conceded.
Trump has a long way to go to rebuild an image left in tatters by his stormy presidency, particularly the final months. Trump now has a unique place in history as the only president ever impeached twice.
Even after Trump leaves office, the Senate is still to hold a trial on the impeachment charge brought by the Democratic-led House of Representatives that he incited an insurrection. Its outcome could determine whether he will be disqualified from running again for president.
“He is going to be as an asterisk president, a one-termer who did more damage than good,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.
Trump maintained to his last days in office that the Nov. 3 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 the U.S. Congress in certifying Biden’s victory over Trump’s objections, after Trump-inspired protesters had been cleared from the Capitol following a deadly assault.
The Washington that Trump leaves behind is being guarded by 25,000 National Guard troops, while the National Mall, traditionally thronged with spectators on Inauguration Day, is closed to the public because of threats of violence from groups that attacked the Capitol.
While preoccupied with fighting the election results, Trump did not put a dent in the spiraling death toll from the coronavirus, which crossed the grim 400,000 mark in the United States on Tuesday, the most of any country. Pandemic-related shutdowns and restrictions have also cost millions of Americans their jobs.