Donald Trump pumped his fist and waved as he departed the White House on Marine One Wednesday for the last time as president, leaving behind a legacy of chaos and tumult and a nation bitterly divided.
Four years after standing on stage at his own inauguration departed the office.
“It’s been a great honor, the honor of a lifetime. The greatest people in the world, the greatest home in the world,” Trump told reporters before heading to Marine One, rotors whirring, on South Lawn.
“We love the American people, and again, it has been something very special. And I just want to say goodbye but hopefully it’s not a long term goodbye. We’ll see each other again.”
Trump will be the first president in modern history to boycott his successor’s inauguration as he continues to stew about his loss and privately maintains the election that President-elect Joe Biden fairly won was stolen from him.
Still, Trump has refused to participate in any of the symbolic passing-of-the-torch traditions surrounding the peaceful transition of power, including inviting the Bidens over for a get-to-know-you visit.
Trump then flew to Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland, where he had a military sendoff. A red carpet was placed on the tarmac for Trump to walk as he boards the plane. Four U.S. Army cannons performed a 21-gun salute. Trump is flying to Florida, where he’ll stay at Mar-a-Lago.
In his short, unscripted remarks, Trump thanked his family and vowed to “always fight.”
“You are amazing people. This is a great, great country. It is my greatest honor and privilege to have been your President,” Trump said to a crowd of his family and staff.
While he wished the next administration “great luck,” but he did not mention President-elect Joe Biden by name.
In his last words before getting on the plane, Trump said: “Have a good life, we will see you soon.”
Trump is leaving Washington just hours before Joe Biden takes the oath of office as the 46th president. It’s the first time in more than a century that a sitting president has rejected the tradition of attending his successor’s inauguration.
Hundreds of supporters greeted Trump at Andrews. By the time Biden is sworn in, Trump will already have landed at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, to face an uncertain future.
White House cleaning crews worked overnight Wednesday and were still going as the sun rose to get the building cleaned and ready for its new occupants. In what will be the office of incoming press secretary Jen Psaki, a computer keyboard and mouse on her desk were encased in plastic. A black moving truck had backed up to the door of the West Wing entrance, where the presence of a lone Marine guard usually signals that the president is in the Oval Office. Most walls were stripped down to the hooks that once held photographs, and offices were devoid of the clutter and trinkets that gave them life. The face of at least one junior aide was streaked with tears as she left the building one last time.
But although Trump has left the White House, he retains his grip on the Republican base, with the support of millions of loyal voters, along with allies still helming the Republican National Committee and many state party organizations.