Donald Trump, the first US president to have been impeached twice, refuses to attend president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration this Wednesday.
He is one of seven US presidents ever to have done so, joining the company of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, and most recently, Richard Nixon. Wilson had had a stroke and Nixon had resigned. Presidents have seldom rejected this norm of attendance, usually seen as an important symbol of the peaceful transition of power.
In place of his attendance at the US Capitol, Trump plans to host an event of his own at Joint Base Andrews, featuring a military band and a 21-gun salute.
On Twitter, the presidential historian Michael Beschloss likened Trump’s behavior to “a three-year-old staging a tantrum”.
Trump’s refusal to attend and his insistence on an alternative ceremony come amid a presidential transition that has already been marked by irregularities. Most transitions begin shortly after the losing candidate quickly concedes an election; Trump waited to do so until after he had incited violence at the US Capitol based on false claims of election fraud.
Though Biden won a clear margin of victory in the popular and electoral votes, he and his team were not given timely access to key briefings, including details about national security and the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.
Given these larger omissions, it is perhaps not surprising that the smaller traditional gestures of welcome, usually extended by the departing presidential family, have also been absent. While sitting presidents have often invited their successors and their families to the White House in the days before inauguration, this too was omitted this year.
It is an indecorous end to an indecorous presidency.