President Trump on Wednesday bid farewell to supporters and staffers as he departed Washington, D.C., for the final time as president in a precedent-breaking fashion that has become routine throughout his time in office, touting his administration’s agenda and promising to maintain “some form” of public presence.
Trump, speaking from Joint Base Andrews, said he “rebuilt” the U.S. military and boasted about the strength of the economy before the coronavirus pandemic, which he spoke about in the past tense.
He claimed to have ushered in a “medical miracle” with the production of two successful coronavirus vaccines, comments that come as his administration faces widespread scrutiny for its response to the pandemic and the lagged rollout of vaccinations over the last few weeks.
Trump also touted his work rolling back regulations and nominating hundreds of conservative federal judges that were confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate during his four years in office.
“What we have done has been amazing by any standard,” Trump told the crowd, which included outgoing White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, members of his family and other White House and campaign aides.
Trump said that he built a roaring economy “twice” and preemptively took credit for any recovery that happens under President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration.
“Remember us when you see these things happening if you would,” Trump said. “I am looking at elements of our economy that are set to be a rocket ship up.”
Despite Trump’s rhetoric, the U.S. economy is badly hurting due to the pandemic and its related business closures. Biden outlined a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan last week to aid the ailing economy after new data showed that jobless claims for the first week of January spiked to 965,000, an increase over the last week in December and the highest weekly amount since last August.
And while Trump spoke about the coronavirus pandemic in the past tense, the virus continues to surge nationwide. More than 400,000 people have died due to the virus, and thousands of Americans are falling ill each day.
Trump’s sendoff event took place at Joint Base Andrews, home to the presidential aircraft, just outside the nation’s capital.
It represented one final norm-busting act of Trump’s presidency; while outgoing presidents typically attend the inauguration of the new president, Trump skipped town hours before Biden will be sworn in as the 46th commander in chief. Trump did leave Biden a note before departing, a White House official confirmed, in keeping with one longtime tradition as a new administration takes over.
Trump did not mention Biden on Wednesday during his address nor did he explicitly acknowledge that Biden won the election, but he said he wished the new administration luck.
Trump's departure follows his second impeachment last week after a mob of his supporters — fueled by his lies that he won the election — stormed the U.S. Capitol, an attack that resulted in five deaths.
“I will be watching, I will be listening, and I will tell you that the future of this country has never been better. I wish the new administration great luck and great success. I think they will have great success. They have the foundation to do something very spectacular,” Trump said on Wednesday.
Trump repeatedly thanked his family and White House aides for their work, explicitly mentioning Meadows and Vice President Pence, who was not on hand for the farewell event because he is attending Biden’s inauguration.
“A goodbye, we love you, we will be back in some form,” Trump said, as he closed his remarks. “Have a good life, we will see you soon.”
Because Trump will serve as president until about noon on Wednesday, he was able to fly aboard Air Force One a final time to his Mar-A-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla.
The event marked Trump’s first public appearance since last week. Apart from a handful of public engagements — including his remarks in Texas last week celebrating the construction of the border wall — Trump has been largely absent and increasingly isolated since he lost the election in November. The event included a soundtrack that often played at Trump’s hallmark campaign rallies.
Trump used his final hours as president to sign a handful of executive actions. Around midnight Tuesday, he issued pardons for over 140 people, including his former chief strategist Stephen Bannon.
Trump’s final event as president took place as Biden headed to church in downtown Washington with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders, hours before he will be sworn in at the U.S. Capitol. Biden is expected to deliver an inaugural address that emphasizes his plans to unify the country during a time of crisis.