Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Strangely lost for words, Trump leaves White House for the last time

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Donald Trump spent his last days in the White House cut off from his legions of supporters after being banned by Twitter and Facebook. For the first time in four years, the outgoing president seems lost for his words.

After his loss to Joe Biden in November electionMr. Trump launched a final attempt to cling to power, peddling false conspiracy theories of massive voter fraud, fighting the result in court and pressuring Republican officials to overturn the result.

But that all changed on January 6, when he was blamed for inciting fatal attack on the U.S. Capitol, which saw him become the first president to be impeached not a twice.

For four years, the White House hosted a series of made-for-television events that Mr. Trump would host with industry titans from blue-chip companies and celebrities, but his administration’s declining days were oddly calm.

One of the few visitors last week was Mike Lindell, outspoken conspiracy theorist and CEO of MyPillow, a small company that makes pillows for people who have trouble sleeping.

Mr. Trump’s official calendar is virtually empty. “President Trump will be working from early in the morning until later in the evening. He’ll be making lots of calls and holding lots of meetings, ”he said almost every day since Christmas, eliciting a lot of ridicule from critics.

On Wednesday morning, when President-elect Biden wakes up in Blair House, the presidential guesthouse across from the White House, Mr. Trump will prepare to depart on the Presidential Marine One helicopter. Then, he will embark on his last flight on Air Force One to West Palm Beach, Florida, where he will settle into his resort in Mar-a-Lago.

In a final act of defiance that underscores his unorthodox presidency, Mr. Trump will be the first president in more than 150 years to snub his successor by not attending the inauguration. All living past presidents – Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton – will attend the event, except Jimmy Carter, 96.

Mr. Trump will host a farewell event at 8 a.m. at Joint Base Andrews, the military airport outside Washington used by the president. But in a sign that the White House was struggling to attract people to the event following the attack on the U.S. Capitol, it resorted to inviting former staff who have long been seen as personae non gratae by Mr. Trump.

Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House communications chief who became a vocal critic of Mr. Trump, received an invitation for himself and five guests, but turned it down. John Kelly, a former chief of staff who also angered Mr. Trump, told CNN he too turned down an invitation.

“Yes, he’s with me that morning, having his fingernails pulled out,” Mr. Scaramucci tweeted of Mr. Kelly’s decision.

Mr. Trump’s exit closes a chapter in the most tumultuous period in modern American politics. In his inaugural address, he spoke of “American carnage”, in a grim speech that prompted George W. Bush to comment, “that was weird shit”.

He closed his presidency four years later with outright carnage when his rhetoric about a stolen election was accused of triggering the violent siege on Capitol Hill that left five dead.

The inglorious end of the Trump presidency comes after a tumultuous year for the 45th occupant of the White House. In February, he was acquitted in his first impeachment trial. A little after, coronavirus has arrived on U.S. shores and Mr Trump – who is said to contract the disease himself – has been attacked on several occasions for his administration’s response to the pandemic.

Then came his second historic indictment this month.

Even Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, who rarely berated the president, decided that enough was enough. On Tuesday, he said the pro-Trump mob had been “fed on lies” and “provoked by the president”.

Mr. Trump leaves office with the lowest approval rating of any president. According to the Pew Research Center, his approval rating fell to 29% after averaging 40% until the attack on Capitol Hill.

Line graph of Donald Trump's management rating of his presidency (%) showing Trump stepping down, approval rating falling to all-time low

But it retains a solid base of support. And he’s won the loyalty of many Republicans with an implied threat to rally his fans behind challengers in the Republican primaries if they break up with him.

On the eve of his departure, Mr. Trump posted a pre-recorded video to YouTube, in which he said the move that had propelled him to the White House for four years was “just beginning.”

The former New York property mogul has previously hinted that he will run for president in 2024. But he also faces the possibility of a conviction in his next Senate trial and the ban on ” exercise public functions in the future.

Mr. Trump will also be embarrassed by the loss of the social media platforms that have helped him bypass mainstream media.

In an interview with the Financial Times shortly after his inauguration in 2017, he seemed taken aback when asked if he would recompose his tweet and become more presidential.

“Without the tweets, I wouldn’t be here. . . I have over 100 million followers between Facebook and Twitter [and] Instagram. . . I don’t have to look to the fake media, ”Mr. Trump said. “You lost, I won,” he added, referring to the media.

Yet in the end, even though he won 74 million votes in November – more than any other candidate in an American election except Mr Biden – he still ended his presidency with the label that he hates more than any other: loser.

Graphic by Brooke Fox and Christine Zhang

To follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter



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