WASHINGTON (AP) — His term at an end, President Donald Trump said farewell to Washington on Wednesday but also hinted about a comeback despite a legacy of chaos, tumult and bitter divisions in the country he led for four years.
“So just a goodbye. We love you," Trump told supporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland where he walked across a red carpet and boarded Air Force One to head to Florida. "We will be back in some form.”
Trump departed office as the only president ever impeached twice, and with millions more out of work than when he was sworn in and 400,000 dead from the coronavirus. Under his watch, Republicans lost the presidency and both chambers of Congress. He will be forever remembered for inciting an insurrection, two weeks before Democrat Joe Biden moved into the White House, at the Capitol that left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer, and horrified the nation. It was on Trump's on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2017, that he had painted a dire picture of “American carnage."
The first president in modern history to boycott his successor’s inauguration, Trump is still stewing about his loss and maintains that election won by Biden was stolen from him. Republican officials in several critical states, members of his own administration and a wide swath of judges, including those appointed by Trump, have rejected those arguments.
Trump refused to participate in any of the symbolic passing-of-the-torch traditions surrounding the peaceful transition of power, including inviting the Joe and Jill Biden to the White House for a get-to-know-you visit.
He did follow at least one tradition: The White House said Trump left behind a note for Biden. A Trump spokesman, Judd Deere, declined to say what Trump wrote or characterize the sentiment in the note, citing privacy for communication between presidents.
Members of Trump’s family gathered for the send-off on the military base along with the president’s loyalists, who chanted “We love you!” “Thank you, Trump” and “U.S.A.” Four Army cannons fired a 21-gun salute.
Speaking without notes, Trump said his presidency was an “incredible four years.” He told the crowd that he and first lady Melania Trump loved them and praised his family for its hard work, saying they could have chosen to have an easier life.
“It’s been something very special. We’ve accomplished a lot,” Trump said, citing the installation of conservative judges, creation of the space force, development of coronavirus vaccines and management of a robust pre-pandemic economy. “I hope they don’t raise your taxes, but if they do, I told you so,” he said of the incoming Biden administration.
He acknowledged that his was not a “regular administration” and told his backers that he would be returning in some form. He said the Trump campaign had worked so hard: “We’ve left it all on the field," he said.
Without mention's Biden's name, Trump wished the new administration great luck and success, which he said would made easier because he had laid “a foundation.”
“I will always fight for you," he told the crowd. “I will be watching. I will be listening.”
Before arriving at the airport, Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House that being president had been the honor of his lifetime.