UPDATE, with landing President Donald Trump exited the White House this morning on a red carpet, boarding Marine One to Joint Base Andrews where he took Air Force One to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, his final use of the presidential aircraft permitted only because he bucked tradition by leaving town before the inauguration of the incoming president.
After a 21-gun salute and “Hail To the Chief” blared through loudspeakers at Joint Base Andrews, Trump greeted a small crowd of invited guests including his children, their spouses, staffers Mark Meadows and Stephen Miller, among others, then gave a short speech in which he listed what he considers his administration’s achievements.
He ended his address with, “So have a good life, we’ll see you soon.” (Air Force One landed at Palm Beach International Airport at 10:54 a.m. ET.)
Though he wished the incoming administration “great success,” he did not mention Joe Biden by name.
“We’ve accomplished so much together,” Trump said, before thanking his family including Ivanka, Don Jr. and Erik. “People had no idea how hard this family works. They could have had a much easier life.” He called wife Melania “a woman of great grace and beauty and dignity and so popular with the people.”
After the First Lady made a few brief remarks of goodbye, Trump returned to the podium and said, “What else has to be said, right?” He then went on to list his administration’s accomplishments, a roster familiar to his rally goers: He claimed to have “rebuilt the United States military,” created the U.S. Space Force, “took care of our beautiful vets,” developed two Covid-19 vaccines, appointed 300 federal judges and three Supreme Court judges, and delivered “the largest tax cuts and reform in history, by far.”
“I hope they don’t raise your taxes,” he said, “but if they do, I told you so.”
A New York Times near-immediate fact-check corrected many of Trump’s numbers: His tax cut was not the largest in the nation’s history and he appointed only 229 federal judges (well below the number appointed by Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton).
He also touted pre-pandemic job numbers and stock market performance, and paid “our respects and our love” to those who have suffered under “the China Virus,” adding his usual capper, “We all know where it came from.” And again, he mistakenly referred to the 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic as taking place in 1917.
He also told the crowd and the cameras, “I will always fight for you, I will be watching, I will be listening and I will tell you that the future of this country has never been better.” He added, “Goodbye, we love you, we will be back in some form.”
Prior to arriving at Andrews, the Trumps had stopped briefly at a gaggle of reporters on the South Lawn. The president’s final words to the South Lawn reporters were not combative, according to CNN’s Jeremy Diamond. “He said thank you, it’s been a great honor to be president, goodbye and that he hoped it would not be a long goodbye.”
The couple were preceded and followed to Marine One by staffers toting bags and boxes.
As Laura Branigan’s “Gloria!” played over loudspeakers, a frequent soundtrack to Trump’s rallies, a small, applauding crowd greeted Marine One, including Ivanka and Jared Kushner, staffers Mark Meadows and Stephen Miller.
Vice President Mike Pence did not arrive at either the White House nor Joint Base Andrews to see off his old boss. The two have been estranged since Pence refused Trump’s push to somehow overturn the election results, this after the president used a vulgarity to taunt the vice president.
Not surprisingly, Trump’s departure gave some of his critics in the media a last word of sorts. Jim Acosta and John King of CNN – correspondents and a network that Trump has repeatedly insulted over the last four years – described Trump’s pardon-dispensing final hours as president in harsh terms. “He’s almost leaving town like an autocrat,” said Acosta about Trump’s slipping out before Biden’s inauguration, while King dismissed anchor Wolf Blitzer’s use of the word “awkward” to describe Trump’s decision not to speak to the incoming president. “It’s more than awkward,” King said. “It’s reprehensible.” (Trump has, however, left the traditional Oval Office note to Biden; the the contents have not been revealed.)
As Air Force One took flight, the loudspeakers at what could be considered his final presidential rally blared the inevitable “My Way” sung by Frank Sinatra.
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