On Wednesday, Joe Biden will become the 46th president of the United States. That means the White House’s 45th occupant, Donald Trump, has only one more day in office.
What will happen during his final few hours?
Several phone calls of either a personal or political nature seem likely. Brief chats with White House staff and personnel. Inspecting a final cleanup of his office, bedroom and meeting rooms to ensure nothing is left behind. A list of presidential pardons will be released, which may include up to 100 individuals.
Oh, and making copies of a few classified files on UFOs. If he’s ever going to write about them, he needs proof! (Relax, I’m just teasing.)
There will be an official send-off on the morning of inauguration day. It’s scheduled for 8 a.m. ET at Joint Base Andrews, according to Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs. “Invitations have been circulated to supporters, including former administration officials and other backers,” Jacobs wrote on Jan. 17, “asking them to arrive by 7:15 a.m.”
Several White House aides will gather on the lawn to watch the presidential helicopter with Trump and his wife, Melania, depart for his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Trump won’t be attending Biden’s inauguration. He tweeted this out on Jan. 8, mere hours before he was permanently suspended by Twitter. Trump will become the first president in more than 150 years to skip this ceremonial event.
The last time this happened was on March 4, 1869. The officeholder was Andrew Johnson, who had taken over from Republican President Abraham Lincoln after his April 1865 assassination. Johnson, a Democrat who ran with Lincoln on a unity ticket during the American Civil War, shares a unique place in history with Trump: they’re two of the three presidents to have faced impeachment hearings. In Johnson’s case, he only survived by one Senate vote.
Johnson wasn’t on speaking terms with his successor, Ulysses S. Grant. The relationship had been strained for years and became worse after he offered Grant the secretary of war position in 1867. He had just suspended Edwin Stanton – who, like Grant, sympathized with congressional reconstruction that enforced equal suffrage on the former Confederate states. Johnson didn’t and removed him.
Grant initially refused the secretary of war role from a moral standpoint. He agreed to serve temporarily in hopes of establishing reconciliation between Johnson and Stanton. But when Grant discovered he would face a $10,000 fine and five-year prison term under the Tenure of Office Act if he took the role, he immediately met with Johnson. (The Act, in force from 1867 to 1887, restricted the power of the president to remove certain office-holders without the approval of the Senate.)
The president actually told the Civil War hero to his face that he would pay the fine and go to jail on Grant’s behalf. Unsurprisingly, Grant didn’t believe him. He refused the position and the Senate returned Stanton to his old cabinet role.
Suffice to say, relations between Grant and Johnson permanently fell apart. Grant supported Johnson’s impeachment, although he wasn’t an active participant in the hearings, and refused to ride with him in the carriage to the ceremony. Johnson, in turn, refused to go to Grant’s inauguration. He rode from the White House to a friend’s home just after noon on Inauguration Day.
Trump’s situation with Biden is different.
He never had a personal or working relationship with the incoming president. They spoke last April about COVID-19 for about 15 minutes and Trump described it as a “really wonderful, warm conversation.” However, the spread of the coronavirus during Trump’s presidency, combined with the difficult presidential election, two tense debates and fierce allegations about Biden’s son Hunter, soured the mood.
Trump continues to claim last year’s presidential election was “stolen” from him and has warned about Biden’s presidency.
Biden said Trump is the “worst president America has ever had,” and condemns most of his policies. It’s abundantly clear both men don’t care for one another, so it’s probably best that Trump is skipping the inauguration.
As he enters his last full day as president, you wonder what Trump believes the future holds for him. A private life in Florida? Building a conservative media network? A third presidential run in 2024, if he isn’t impeached by the Senate?
A day in politics is a lifetime and Trump has several years to build a new political life if he so chooses.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.