Trump Prepares Pardon List for Aides, Kin, and Maybe Himself
President Donald Trump said Friday he won’t attend the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, two days after his supporters mounted a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th,” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s decision to skip the event follows a weeks-long effort to overturn the will of voters who elected Biden, as the president and his supporters promoted baseless conspiracies of election fraud, filed scores of futile lawsuits, and harangued state officials to halt or reverse certifications of Biden’s victory.
The effort culminated in Wednesday’s bloody scene, when a large protest Trump encouraged at the Capitol led to his supporters storming the building, disrupting Congress’s count of Electoral College votes. Lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over what is normally a ceremonial event, were forced to flee.
The violence -- linked to five deaths, including that of a Capitol police officer -- has prompted calls from top lawmakers for the president to be immediately removed from office. Two Cabinet secretaries resigned, citing Trump’s involvement with the insurrection, as well as scores of lower-level administration officials.
As pressure mounted for Trump’s removal from office, the president posted a video Thursday evening in which he conceded Biden would be inaugurated and pledged “a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.” The message was widely seen as an effort by the president to halt momentum for either his second impeachment or a bid by members of his own cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove him from power, and to stem further staff defections.
The president reverted to a more defiant tone on Friday, announcing his plans to skip the inauguration and praising his supporters on Twitter as “American Patriots.”
Trump’s decision to skip the ceremony is a notable break from recent precedent. The last U.S. president not to attend his successor’s inauguration was Richard Nixon, who resigned following the Watergate scandal and left Washington before Gerald Ford took the oath of office. The last president to miss a regularly scheduled inauguration following an election was Woodrow Wilson, who skipped Warren G. Harding’s 1921 ceremony due to health concerns.
Other presidents have skipped their successors’ inaugurations over political grievance, but not in recent history. John Adams declined to attend the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson after the contested election of 1800. And Andrew Johnson -- who, like Trump, was impeached by the House but escaped conviction by the Senate -- didn’t attend the ceremony for President Ulysses S. Grant.
Biden previously said he hoped Trump would attend, telling CNN in an interview that it would be important “to demonstrate the end of this chaos he’s created.”
“The protocol of the transfer of power, I think, is important,” Biden said. “But it is totally his decision, and it’s of no personal consequence to me.”
A White House spokesman declined to comment when asked whether Trump would meet with Biden prior to his inauguration, as is customary. Former President Barack Obama welcomed Trump to the White House for an Oval Office meeting that included a discussion of pressing foreign policy topics shortly after Trump’s victory in 2016.
Pence’s office hasn’t said whether he’ll attend Biden’s inauguration, though a spokesman for the vice president appeared to deny a report in Politico on Thursday saying he planned to be there.
“You can’t attend something you haven’t received an invitation to,” Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley said on Twitter.
An official with the congressional committee organizing the inauguration said Pence was invited to attend, but that traditionally attendance is coordinated at a staff level rather than via formal invitation. Pence has not yet notified the committee of his plans according the person, who requested anonymity to describe the internal discussions.
The only other living Republican president -- former President George W. Bush -- has said he and former first lady Laura Bush expect to attend the event. Former President Jimmy Carter, who is 96, is expected to miss the ceremony for the first time in more than four decades due to health concerns, but Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton -- who Trump defeated four years ago to win the presidency -- will be there, according to an aide.
Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama “look forward to attending the inauguration,” spokeswoman Katie Hill said.