WASHINGTON (US) – With just hours remaining for Democrat Joe Biden to assume office, Republican President Donald Trump left the White House on Wednesday.
Trump left the White House with his wife Melania just after 8 a.m. (1300 GMT) and went by helicopter to a sendoff event at Joint Air Force Base Andrews, where he promised supporters “we’ll be back in some form” and extolled his administration’s successes before flying off to Florida.
Top Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence, were not there to see him go.
Trump flouted one last convention on his way out. His refusal to attend his successor’s swearing-in breaks with more than a century and a half of political tradition, seen as a way of affirming the peaceful transfer of power.
“Have a good life – we will see you soon,” Trump said before boarding Air Force One to head to his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.
The president did, however, leave a customary note for Biden in the Oval Office, according to a White House official, though it was not yet known what it said.
Biden, 78, will become the oldest U.S. president in history at a scaled-back inauguration ceremony in Washington. He will take the oath of office before U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts just after noon (1700 GMT). Only a small number of attendees will be present at the ceremony, due to COVID restriction and security concerns following the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters.
Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, will become the first Black person, first woman and first Asian American to serve as vice president after she is sworn in by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina member.
Pence, former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and both McCarthy and McConnell are all expected to attend the inauguration ceremony.