President Trump departed the White House on Wednesday morning for the last time as the commander in chief after four tumultuous years that shook the nation, choosing to leave town rather than face the reality that he lost re-election to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
The Marine One helicopter took off from the South Lawn of the White House at about 8:18 a.m. for the short flight to Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland, where the president planned to hold a farewell event with administration veterans and other supporters. After that, he and Melania Trump were to board Air Force One for the journey to Florida, where they will reside.
Mr. Trump surrendered the building after a late night of signing last-minute pardons and other clemency orders for 143 people, including Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist; Elliott Broidy, one of his top fund-raisers in 2016; and a series of politicians convicted of corruption. The White House did not announce the pardons until after midnight and then followed up at 1:07 a.m. with an order revoking the ethics rules Mr. Trump had imposed on his own former aides.
In slipping out of Washington before the festivities on Wednesday, Mr. Trump capped a norm-busting tenure by defying one last convention. He refused to host the traditional coffee that presidents hold for their successors at the White House on the morning of the inauguration. And he opted to skip the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol, normally a symbol of the American tradition of peaceful transfer of power that is attended by both departing and incoming presidents.
No president has refused to attend his successor’s inauguration since 1869, when Andrew Johnson, miffed that Ulysses S. Grant would not share a carriage with him to the Capitol, refused at the last minute to get into the separate carriage arranged for him and skipped the ceremony. (Woodrow Wilson traveled to the Capitol for Warren G. Harding’s inauguration in 1921, but did not remain for the ceremony because of his failing health.)
New York Times