President Donald Trump left the White House and flew away aboard Air Force 1 for the final time of his presidency on Wednesday.
After leaving with his wife, Melania Trump, on the Marine One helicopter, the outgoing president arrived in Joint Base Andrews and delivered brief remarks to a crowd of supporters chanting “we love you” before he boarded Air Force One.
“What we’ve done has been amazing by any standard,” said Mr Trump. “We rebuilt the United States military. We rebuilt a new force called Space Force. That itself would be a major achievement for a regular administration. We were not a regular administration.
“We also got tax cuts – the largest tax cuts and reform in the history of our country so far. I hope they don’t raise your taxes, but if they do I told you so.”
Mr Trump also touted his regulatory reform while repeating many of his greatest hits from office, including referring to coronavirus as the “China virus” while offering condolences to victims of the Covid-19 pandemic and their families.
He also spoke to his supporters, promising to return.
“I will always fight for you. I will be watching, I will be listening, and I will tell you that the future of this country has never been better. I wish the new administration great luck, great success,” Trump
Before leaving, the crowd shouted “USA” and “thank you Trump.”
Mr Trump vowed, “we will be back in some form” – possibly alluding to his 2024 presidential campaign aspirations.
“Have a good life. We will see you soon,” he said as he waved goodbye.
Unlike most outgoing presidents, Mr Trump has opted not to attend Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony of President-Elect Joe Biden. However, CNN reported that Mr Trump did leave a letter on the Resolute Desk for Mr Biden – a tradition among presidents.
Instead, he will fly to his resort in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, and Vice President Mike Pence will perform the traditional welcoming ceremonies that presidents usually carry out for their successors.
Mr Trump’s departure comes mere hours after he issued a series of last-minute pardons for many of his political allies ensnared in corruption scandals, including his former campaign strategist Steve Bannon.
The Senate will also conduct an impeachment trial against Mr Trump at some point early in Mr Biden’s presidency for the outgoing president’s alleged role in inciting the mob that ransacked Capitol Hill two weeks ago.
Elsewhere, Washington was unusually quiet on Wednesday morning as final preparations were underway for the inauguration of Mr Biden as the 46th US president.
Since the events at the Capitol on January 6, the city has been fortified with police and more than 20,000 National Guard members.
The extra precautions were in addition to Covid-19 safety measures, which the Biden inauguration team previously planned, another indication that the ceremony will be vastly different from those that came before.
The public has been urged to stay at home and the National Mall, typically filled with thousands of spectators on inauguration day, has been closed. In an addition to proceedings that were either hauntingly beautiful or gloomy – depending on your perspective – 200,000 flags were placed on the Mall, representing those who cannot attend.
There are 1,000 expected at this inauguration, a group that will include congressional members, outgoing Vice President Mike Pence, former presidents George Bush, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, along with their spouses.
What is Donald Trump doing on inauguration day?
Donald Trump will be missing from the ceremony. The outgoing president scheduled a farewell ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Wednesday morning. From there, he and his wife Melania are expected to head directly to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Mr Trump’s absence from the inauguration will be the first time in 152 years that an outgoing president has not attended his successor's inauguration ceremony.
Mr Trump will be the fourth president to do so. His early departure from Washington marks an end to one of the most divisive presidencies of modern times.
What did Biden do on the eve of the inauguration?
After arriving in Washington by private plane, an extra security measure, Mr Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris went to the Lincoln Memorial. There they held a tribute to the 400,000 people in the US who died from Covid-19.
Mr Biden and his wife Jill spent the night across from the White House at Blair House, a pre-inaugural tradition since 1977.
On Wednesday morning, the Bidens headed to St Matthew’s Cathedral where they attended a service with Republican and Democratic congress members.
Mr Biden is expected to arrive at the ceremony in the presidential limo, a 10-tonne behemoth nicknamed "the beast" because of its unique design.
The armoured vehicle is fitted with 25-centimetre thick bulletproof windows.