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last day

'We did what we came here to do': Trump signs off as US President with farewell address

The outgoing president wished success to the new administration in a video posted this evening.

The White House / YouTube

AN EMOTIONAL US President-elect Joe Biden flew to Washington today on the eve of his inauguration, as his predecessor Donald Trump – who will snub Biden’s swearing-in – for the first time wished success to the new administration.

Trump, who has not appeared in public for a week, broke days of silence with a videoed farewell address from the White House.

“Four years ago, we launched a great national effort to rebuild our country, to renew its spirit, and to restore the allegiance of this government to its citizens,” he said. “We did what we came here to do. And so much more.”

Trump for the first time asked Americans to “pray” for the success of the incoming Biden administration – a change of tune from weeks spent persuading his huge number of Republican followers that the Democrat cheated in their election battle.

He has yet to personally congratulate Biden on his win or invite him for the customary cup of tea in the Oval Office.

In one of his last acts before he flies to Florida from Joint Base Andrews tomorrow morning, Trump is expected to issue scores of pardons, with speculation rife over who might make the list.

The latest indications are that Trump will not take the legally dubious step of issuing himself and his children preemptive pardons.

Outside the White House fence, central Washington has taken on a dystopian look ahead of Biden’s inauguration, swarming with National Guard troops and largely emptied of ordinary people.

Covid-19 restrictions meant the swearing-in ceremony at noon on Wednesday was always due to be sparsely attended. But fears of right-wing attacks in the wake of the pro-Trump riot in the Capitol building on 6 January have triggered unprecedented deployments of armed soldiers, concrete barriers and secure areas dubbed “green” and “red” zones.

Adding to the tension, the Senate is expected to put Trump on trial soon, following his record second impeachment by the House of Representatives over the Capitol riot.

Biden comes to town

This evening, Joe Biden arrived at an air base near Washington with his wife Jill. 

In remarks before leaving Delaware, he quoted Irish author James Joyce in explaining what the area means to him. 

“My colleagues in the Irish Senate used to always kid me cos I quoted Irish poets,” he said. “James Joyce was said to have told a friend when it comes for his time to pass that ‘Dublin will be written in my heart’. Well, excuse the emotion. When I die Delaware will be written in my heart.

“I only have one regret, that he’s not here,” Biden said, referring to his son Beau, who died of cancer in 2015. “Because we should be introducing him as president.”

Biden mentioned the history-making nature of the election, and how Kamala Harris, a black woman of South Asian descent, will be inaugurated as vice president 12 years after Biden took office as VP to Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president.

“Don’t tell me things can’t change. They can, and they do,” Biden said. “That’s America. That’s Delaware.”

Tomorrow, his inaugural speech will last between 20-30 minutes, according to a source familiar with preparations, and “he will reach out to all Americans, and call on every citizen to be part of meeting the extraordinary challenges facing all of us,” an advisor said.

To symbolize the new spirit, Biden has invited the two top senators — Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Mitch McConnell — and other top congressional leaders to attend a church service with him on Wednesday before the inauguration.

A person familiar with McConnell’s plans confirmed to AFP the Republican congressional leader would join Biden, a longtime Senate colleague, in church.

Outgoing vice president Mike Pence is also expected to attend the inauguration tomorrow. 

© AFP 2021

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