WASHINGTON : In his last address as the president, Donald Trump wished the incoming Joe Biden administration luck but avoided saying the name of the man who defeated him in the November elections.
Trump has refused to offer a full concession to Democrat Biden, who won the November 3 election with 306 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 232. Biden will be inaugurated at 12:00 p.m. EST (1700 GMT) on Wednesday and Trump is not meeting with Biden beforehand or attending the swearing in as is customary in the handover of power to the White House. Trump instead plans to fly to Florida.
“This week, we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous,” the Republican president said in recorded remarks. “We extend our best wishes, and we also want them to have luck — a very important word.”
Trump campaigned on a pledge to “Make America Great Again” but leaves office with more than 400,000 people dead of the novel coronavirus — the most in the world — whose risk he played down, an economy struggling from the pandemic, and relationships strained with key US allies.
“The greatest danger we face is a loss of confidence in ourselves, a loss of confidence in our national greatness,” Trump said.
For months Trump said without evidence that the election was rigged against him and applied pressure on state officials to overturn the results. At a rally near the White House on January 6 he encouraged followers to march on Congress while lawmakers were certifying Biden’s win.
Trump has been holed up at the White House for the final weeks of his term, reeling after the riot by his supporters at the Capitol that led to five deaths, including a Capitol Police officer.
The stampede, which followed a rally in which Trump repeated false allegations of election fraud and urged his supporters to fight, has overshadowed any efforts to emphasize the president’s legacy in his final days in office.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump on a charge of incitement, making him the first president in US history to be impeached twice. He will have to face the charges after leaving office.
In Tuesday’s farewell, without specifically mentioning Twitter’s decision to suspend his @realDonaldTrump account, Trump made reference to his complaint that free speech had been muzzled by the company. Twitter said it suspended the account because of the risk of the incitement of further violence.
“Shutting down free and open debate violates our core values and most enduring traditions,” Trump said. “America is not a timid nation of tame souls who need to be sheltered and protected from those with whom we disagree.”
In the recorded remarks Trump sought to highlight aspects of his presidency in which he took pride.
“We did what we came here to do, and so much more,” he said. “I took on the tough battles, the hardest fights, the most difficult choices — because that’s what you elected me to do.”
Trump noted Middle East peace deals his administration brokered and lauded his foreign policy agenda.
“We revitalised our alliances and rallied the nations of the world to stand up to China like never before,” he said. “I am especially proud to be the first president in decades who has started no new wars.”
Trump, who leaves amid deep divisions in the country, acknowledged the Capitol riots, which in the immediate aftermath of the violence he was slow to condemn.
“All Americans were horrified by the assault on our Capitol. Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated,” he said.
And the president, who former advisers predict has lost much of a political future after the riots, suggested his movement would go on.
“Now, as I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning,” Trump said.
“I go from this majestic place with a loyal and joyful heart and optimistic spirit, and a supreme confidence that for our country and for our children, the best is yet to come.”