BY BRETT SAMUELS – 01/18/21 (thehill.com)
President Trump will depart the White House Wednesday after four tumultuous years that will be defined by a mob riot and bipartisan impeachment vote in his final weeks in office.
There has been no public victory lap for Trump, whose last days in the White House have instead been defined by silence — in no small part because of a Twitter ban on his favorite form of social media imposed after the riot at the Capitol.
The president will not attend President-elect Joe Biden‘s inauguration on Wednesday. He is expected to depart Washington, D.C., that morning and attend a military ceremony at Joint Base Andrews before leaving for Florida.
Advisers say Trump will spend an extended period of time in the Sunshine State, surrounded by a small circle of close aides as he plots his next steps. The president is still expected to issue additional ceremonial honors, as he has done in recent days behind closed doors, and he may still grant pardons to allies on his way out the door.
A White House spokesperson declined to comment on specific plans for the final days of his term.
Past presidents have typically gone on a public messaging tour to shape the discussion about their legacy, policy accomplishments and time in office.
But Trump’s last few weeks have been defined by one catastrophe after another, culminating in his becoming the first president to ever be impeached twice.
Initially, after his loss to Biden, the future looked different for Trump. While there’s no doubt it was disappointing for Republicans to lose the White House, Trump could boast of helping the House GOP gain seats. It also appeared that the Senate would remain in GOP hands.
But Trump decided to spend the weeks after the election pushing unsubstantiated claims that the election had been stolen from him by widespread fraud, despite a lack of real evidence. Courts and GOP state officials rejected the false Trump claims, but that didn’t stop the president either.
The arguments backfired in Georgia, where Democrats ended up winning two Senate seats that gave them the majority in that chamber after two runoff elections on Jan. 5.
The next day, Trump continued with his claims in front of a crowd in Washington already fueled by conspiracy theories. It ended with the ugly debacle at the Capitol, and Trump’s impeachment.
There’s now a real chance he could be convicted in the Senate in the weeks ahead.
All the while, Trump has been disengaged on the response to the coronavirus pandemic, even as the situation worsened in the United States in the final weeks of his presidency, with more than 3,000 Americans dying per day on average.
“I think he is in a really bad place in terms of his legacy and in terms of how history will remember him, and I don’t think he has very many tools at his disposal to change that narrative,” said Matt Dallek, a political historian and professor at George Washington University.
In Trump’s absence, Vice President Pence has fulfilled many of the ceremonial duties typically carried out by the president in their final days in office.
Pence attended a briefing on inauguration security on Thursday, flew to the funeral of the late pilot Chuck Yeager on Friday and delivered addresses on Saturday and Sunday in California and New York, respectively, to tout the administration’s military achievements.
Pence called Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to offer congratulations and assistance last week and will attend Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. Trump has yet to call Biden and will be out of Washington by the time his successor is sworn in.
A Pew Research Center poll released Friday found just 29 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing in office.
That survey followed others last week that showed Trump’s approval taking a dive in his final days in office. An ABC News-Washington Post poll pegged Trump’s approval rating at 38 percent, while a Quinnipiac poll out this week found him with just a 33 percent approval rating.
Trump allies believe the president will have staying power in the Republican Party and the broader political world after leaving office, despite a faction of the party viewing him as toxic and hoping he will disappear from public view.
Losing access to social media platforms has reduced Trump’s ability to get out any kind of farewell message, and it has cast uncertainty on how influential he will be upon leaving office.
Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign who remains in touch with the president, said it was “too soon” to say for certain how exactly the president would proceed politically once he departs the White House.
“He’s doing well,” Miller said of Trump. “Obviously he’d rather have access to all his social media platforms than not, but he also realizes this is a massive overreach by Big Tech, and this makes people more interested in what he has to say.”