WASHINGTON — Trying to repair the legacy of being twice impeached, President Donald Trump spent this final hours in office Tuesday trumpeting his administration’s accomplishments, wishing a successor he would not name luck and preparing a flurry of pardons.
“This week we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous,” Trump said in a video farewell, released by the White House less than 24 hours before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. “We extend our best wishes. And we also want them to have luck — a very important word.”
Trump, who spent months trying to delegitimize Biden’s win with baseless allegations of mass voter fraud, repeatedly referenced the “next administration” but declined to utter Biden’s name. Many of Trump’s supporters continue to believe the election was stolen from him, even though a long list of judges, Republican state officials and even Trump’s own government have said there is no evidence to support that claim.
Trump was expected to spend his final hours granting clemency to as many as 100 people, according to two people briefed on the plans. The list of pardons and commutations is expected to include names unfamiliar to the American public — regular people who have spent years languishing in prison as well as politically connected friends and allies.
Trump, in his address, tried to cast his presidency as a triumph for everyday people as he highlighted what he sees as his top achievements — including efforts to normalize relations in the Middle East, the development of coronavirus vaccinations and the creation of a new Space Force. And he tried to defend the endless controversies that have consumed the last four years as justified.
“As president, my top priority, my constant concern, has always been the best interests of American workers and American families,” he said. “I did not seek the easiest course; by far, it was actually the most difficult. I did not seek the path that would get the least criticism. I took on the tough battles, the hardest fights, the most difficult choices because that’s what you elected me to do.”
Trump also made clear that he has no plans of going away quietly, telling his supporters that, as he prepares “to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning. There’s never been anything like it.”
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Aides urged Trump to spend his final days in office participating in a series of legacy-burnishing events. But Trump, who remains consumed with anger over his election loss, largely refused.
He has not been seen in public since last week when he traveled to Texas for a last photo opportunity at the border wall he pushed. He spent less than 45 minutes on the ground there and spoke just 21 minutes.
Trump is set to leave Washington early Wednesday morning after a grand farewell at nearby Joint Base Andrews. Once there, he will board Air Force One for a final time, flying to Florida and becoming the first outgoing president in more than a century to skip the inauguration of his successor.
But it remains unclear how many people will be there to see him off.
Several former administration officials-turned-critics expressed surprise they received invitations. And even Vice President Mike Pence will be absent.
But he is expected to attend Biden’s ceremony.
Trump has also refused to take part in any of the symbolic passing-of-the-torch traditions that have been the capstones of the peaceful transition of power. He is boycotting not just the ceremony at the Capitol, but also passed on inviting the Bidens to the White House for a get-to-know-you meeting. And it remains unknown if he will write Biden a personal welcome letter, like outgoing presidents have done in the past.
Denied his Twitter bullhorn and with little else planned, Trump participated in meetings over the weekend to discuss clemency actions, according to a White House official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trump was personally involved in the effort to sift through requests, mostly from first-time drug offenders sentenced to life, rejecting some applications and greenlighting others, according to one of the people involved in the effort.
Also playing a key role has been the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who met with advocates, reviewed cases and brought them to the Department of Justice and pardon attorney.
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With the Jan 6 riot at the Capitol, Trump — unlike any president in U.S. history — has been impeached a second time. His inner circle is fearful of doing anything that could provoke a conviction in the Senate that would potentially bar him from ever holding office again.
That would end any chance of a 2024 comeback run he has hoped will at least stoke rumors of a campaign so he would remain relevant.
10:52AM | Tue, February 23, 2021
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10:45AM | Thu, February 11, 2021