JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Maryland — In a modest farewell that shattered traditions, President Trump, more accustomed to arena and stadium rallies than the small crowd he addressed on Wednesday, bid goodbye to Washington, D.C., and the presidency — for now.
With first lady Melania Trump by his side, the 45th president was greeted by supporters and a 21-gun military salute at Joint Base Andrews outside the capital city Wednesday morning in front of a display of 17 American flags flapping in a steady breeze.
“We love you,” Trump said. “This has been an incredible four years.”
Flanked by his family, he joked about the incoming Democratic administration raising the country’s taxes, while listing some of his perceived accomplishments.
“I hope they don’t raise your taxes. But if they do, I told you so,” he quipped.
“Remember us,” he added cryptically. “We will be back in some form.”
While he thanked Vice President Mike Pence, he didn’t name his successor, the soon-to-be President Joe Biden.
Trump spoke to a crowd of supporters, which included current and former White House aides, that numbered between 200 and 300 people. Among them were Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump aide who was among the many who were dismissed under the spontaneous president, and junior staffers.
Despite featuring far fewer supporters, the farewell event did have many of the looks and sounds of a Trump rally. The musical playlist was similar: “Eye of the Tiger,” “Gloria,” “YMCA,” “Fortunate Son,” and “Macho Man” were among the tunes that blared over loudspeakers on a cold and blustery day.
Trump, the first chief executive to be impeached by the House of Representatives twice, spoke behind the familiar blue presidential lectern with the official seal of the office attached for the final time, complete with the goose neck-style microphone he preferred.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump also hinted to reporters gathered on the White House South Lawn of some sort of political return. There, he described being president as “the honor of a lifetime.” He went on to say he hoped his farewell would not be “a long-term goodbye” before taking off on Marine One for the military facility.
Since Biden was declared and later certified as the 46th commander in chief, there have been rumors that Trump could mount a run for the White House in 2024 — though insiders say that could be derailed by the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by thousands of his supporters after a rally near the White House in which even senior Republicans say the president encouraged the violence in his name.
Trump’s short campaign-style remarks, sans a TelePrompter, were contrasted with a 20-minute recorded video released Tuesday afternoon. The scripted video was taped at the insistence of White House staff, urging the outgoing president to tout the achievements of his single term.
“I took on the tough battles, the hardest fights, the most difficult choices — because that’s what you elected me to do,” Trump said.
After the event, a subdued occasion following the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack, Trump will take the two-hour flight to Florida one final time aboard Air Force One. A handful of reporters will be making the journey with him.
In one final bit of stagecraft, Air Force One taxied at Joint Base Andrews to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” even lifting off as the song hit its climax.
Trump landed in South Florida around 11 a.m., just as former presidents, members of Congress, and others were gathering on the Capitol’s west front. He left the nation’s capital without speaking with Biden. He’s the first commander in chief to snub a successor’s inauguration since Andrew Johnson boycotted Ulysses Grant’s in 1869.
“He has not. No,” Kate Bedingfield, the next White House communications director, told ABC when asked whether Biden has had any contact with the former reality TV star and real estate mogul.
Trump’s speech provided one last split TV screen moment with Biden. Instead, the 46th president is attending a Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle church service with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the top GOP officials in Congress.
Reports emerged before Trump’s farewell that staffers encountered difficulties with the guest list. Notably, Pence, a loyal lieutenant, wasn’t present.
Trump still has presidential powers until 11.59 a.m. ET. He may grant more executive clemency, despite a late-night flurry of full and partial pardons, including for ex-chief political strategist Steve Bannon.
Author: Naomi Lim
Source: Washington Examiner: ‘We will be back in some form’: Trump bids presidency goodbye