US President Donald Trump boards Marine One as he departs the White House in Washington, DC. File/AFP
Gulf Today Report
By the time Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th US president on Wednesday, his scandal-tainted predecessor Donald Trump will already be far away, having helicoptered out of the White House a last time earlier that morning, an official said on Friday.
Trump will be the first president in a century and a half to snub the inauguration of his successor.
Meanwhile, supporters of President Donald Trump are among a handful of groups that have applied for permits to hold protests during Joe Biden's inauguration. But it appears unlikely their application will be approved as the National Park Service greatly curtails protests as part of a major security lockdown.
The NPS released details on Friday of the five permit applications it had received so far for demonstrations. Among them, was a group called "Let America Hear Us, Roar For Trump."
NPS spokesman Mike Litterst told The Associated Press that the pro-Trump group had "not responded to our repeated attempts to contact them and set up a meeting regarding their application and their permit is therefore unlikely to be issued.”
The NPS released details on Friday of the five permit applications it had received so far for demonstrations.
An official who asked not to be identified said Trump would go to his Mar-a-Lago golf club in Florida, which is his legal residence and will become home after the White House.
Trump is expected to be out of town well before Biden is sworn in on the steps of the Capitol building at exactly noon.
After spending more than two months trying to overturn the results of the November election, pushing false conspiracy theories about fraud, Trump’s presence had not been expected at the inauguration.
The final straw came on Jan.6 when Trump gathered a huge crowd of supporters on the National Mall and once more claimed that they had to fight to stop a fraudulent election. A mob then stormed Congress, halting proceedings underway to certify Biden’s win.
For longer than anyone can remember, outgoing presidents have stood by their replacement on the Capitol steps, watching them take the oath — and in so doing showing visible support for the peaceful transfer of power.
Trump, who was impeached for a record second time in the wake of the Congress storming, has also broken with more discreet protocol by refusing to invite Biden and his wife Jill Biden to the White House for a traditional cup of tea in the Oval Office.
On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence did make the gesture of telephoning his incoming counterpart Kamala Harris, a source said.
Although this came only five days before inauguration day — and more than two months after the election — The New York Times said Pence offered his congratulations and belated assistance to Harris, describing the exchange as “gracious and pleasant.”
Recriminations over the Jan.6 attack continued to reverberate on Friday, however, when Trump’s health secretary criticized “the actions and rhetoric following the election.”
In a letter confirming he would step down when Biden takes office on Jan.20, Alex Azar called the violence “an assault on our democracy and on the tradition of peaceful transitions of power,” urging Trump to condemn all violence and help ensure a smooth handover to Biden.
Inauguration like no other
Trump’s extraordinary exit adds to the nervous atmosphere around an inauguration that was already set to be like no other.
In the wake of the Congress attack, thousands of National Guard troops have taken up position around central Washington. And even before the security nightmare, organizers had been forced by Covid-19 safety measures to nix the traditional big crowds and long guest lists.
For Biden, the subdued ceremonies will quickly be followed by a mammoth To Do list. His administration faces multiple crises on day one, including the stumbling national Covid vaccination project, a precarious economic recovery and Trump’s looming impeachment trial in the Senate.
At the same time, Biden will have to cajole the Senate into rapidly confirming his cabinet appointees, allowing him to form a government and bring stability back to the country.
Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday that the Senate is fully capable of juggling the impeachment trial along with the urgent confirmations.
“The Senate can do its constitutional duty while continuing to conduct the business of the people,” she said.
“Our expectation and hope and belief is that we need to walk and chew gum at the same time.”
Speaking to reporters on the Thanksgiving holiday, Republican Trump said if Democrat Biden - who is due to be sworn in on Jan.20 - is formally declared the winner by the Electoral College, he will depart the White House.
The chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Daniel Hokanson, told reporters he expected about 10,000 troops in Washington by Saturday to help provide security, logistics and communications.
And the inauguration will look different from other presidential inaugurations because of last week’s riot, with extremely tight security around the entire capital region.
Kemp, Raffensperger and their aides are working quietly with Republican legislators to craft changes to absentee and early voting they believe can strike a balance. That may mean jettisoning or at least relaxing some of the proposals circulating in the Republican-run General Assembly,
Officials had warned that waves could reach three metres (10 feet) above high tide levels after the quakes - the strongest a magnitude 8.1 - but the threat had passed by the afternoon, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said.
The state of emergency, which is a non-binding request, centers around asking restaurants, bars and other businesses to voluntarily close at 8pm. Japan has never had a mandatory lockdown, but has managed to keep infections relatively low with social distancing and such voluntary measures.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the UN Security Council that “the Assad regime has tried to avoid accountability by obstructing independent investigations and undermining the role and work of the OPCW,” the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons