Trump takes victory lap in farewell video message

President Trump took a one last victory lap in a taped address released on his final full day as president, in which he touted his accomplishments and wished the incoming administration luck without mentioning President-elect Joe Biden by name. 

“We did what we came here to do and so much more,” Trump said in the 20-minute address, which was recorded Monday and released by the White House Tuesday afternoon. “This week, we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous. We extend our best wishes and we also want them to have luck – a very important word.” 

Trump lauded the administration’s work passing tax cuts, implementing a deregulation agenda, building a wall at the U.S. southern border, and inking the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement (USMCA). He repeatedly touted the strength of the U.S. economy before the coronavirus pandemic, and framed the administration’s response to the virus – which has been widely panned – as a success. 

Trump took credit for the production of two successful coronavirus vaccines, saying they were delivered in “record breaking time” and calling them a “medical miracle.” 

“We grieve for every life lost, and we pledge in their memory to wipe out this horrible pandemic once and for all,” Trump said. 

The farewell address marked a rare acknowledgment from Trump that his time as president is ending, though at one point he declared that “movement we started is only just beginning.”

He has refused to formally concede and he has not spoken with Biden since the election. The taped remarks were released on a day where Trump otherwise had nothing on his public schedule, as has been routine since his election loss.

Biden, who left Delaware earlier Tuesday en route to Washington, D.C., will be inaugurated as the 46th president at a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. 

Trump will not attend Biden’s inauguration but will instead depart Washington for his Mar-A-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., Wednesday morning following a military sendoff at Joint Base Andrews. Many former aides and GOP lawmakers were invited but are not expected to attend. Vice President Pence is not expected to attend the ceremony after having already committed to attending Biden’s inauguration. 

At no point in the 20-minute address did Trump mention Biden by name, and he has yet to acknowledge that he lost the 2020 election fairly. He offered a brief condemnation of the violence at the Capitol two weeks ago, when some of his supporters stormed the complex to halt the certification of electoral votes affirming Biden as the next president, but did not acknowledge his own role in the events.

Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives last week for inciting an insurrection following the violence at the Capitol.  

“All Americans were horrified by the assault on our capitol. Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated,” Trump said. "Now more than ever, we must unify around our shared values and rise above the partisan rancor, and forge our common destiny."

Trump otherwise made no reference to the fraying state of the nation. Instead, he argued Americans should reject political censorship and prize a shared sense of heritage, a word Trump frequently deployed to argue against “cancel culture” and the push to rename bases named after Confederate soldiers. 

“The key to national greatness lies in sustaining and instilling our shared national identity. That means focusing on what we have in common, the heritage that we all share,” Trump said. “At the center of this heritage is also a robust belief in free expression, free speech and robust debate. Only if we forget who we are and how we got here could we ever allow political censorship and blacklisting to take place in America.” 

Trump also touted his “America First” approach that critics have argued damaged the country’s reputation abroad.

The president cited operations that killed the leader of ISIS and Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani; his decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv; his push for NATO allies to raise their contributions to the defense partnership; and his hardline approach to China through the use of tariffs.

Trump boasted that he was the first president in decades not to get the country into a new foreign conflict.

Still, tensions remain increasingly high domestically. Just outside the White House, fences have gone up in recent weeks around the Capitol complex, the Supreme Court and large portions of downtown Washington, D.C., to mitigate security threats to Biden’s inauguration.

The president’s farewell address came nearly two weeks after his supporters stormed the Capitol complex to halt the certification of electoral votes affirming Biden as the winner of the 2020 election, an attack that resulted in five deaths.  

The riots followed weeks of rhetoric from Trump in which he sowed doubt about the legitimacy of the outcome and immediately after he delivered a speech urging those in Washington, D.C., to march to the Capitol and discourage lawmakers from certifying the results. Multiple people died in the ensuing violence, including a Capitol police officer, and dozens of people have been arrested for their role in the mayhem.

Biden will deliver an inaugural address after he is sworn in on Wednesday that is expected to emphasize the need to bring the country together during a time of crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic and economic recession. The United States surpassed the grim milestone of 400,000 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday.