President Donald Trump has said he will not attend his successor Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20 as political rivals sought to oust the incumbent president before the scheduled transition.
Mr Trump tweeted – before his Twitter account was permanently suspended – to confirm he would not be present at the Capitol when Mr Biden takes the oath of office just hours after he made a video statement finally acknowledging that Mr Biden had won the race to the White House.
Mr Biden said he was fine with that, calling it “one of the few things we have ever agreed on”.
“It’s a good thing him not showing up,” he added, calling the president an “embarrassment” to the nation and unworthy of the office.
Traditionally the outgoing president and president-elect travel together to the ceremony at the Capitol from the White House.
Mr Biden will become president at noon on January 20 regardless of Mr Trump’s plans. But Mr Trump’s absence represents one final act of defiance of the norms and traditions of Washington that he has flouted for four years.
Historian Douglas Brinkley said that while attending the inauguration “would be a wonderful olive branch to the country”, he was not surprised by the decision.
“Donald Trump doesn’t want to be in Washington as the second-fiddle loser standing on stage with Joe Biden,” he said.
While Mr Trump stays away, former Presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton will be there to stand witness to the rite of democracy. The only other living president, 96-year-old Jimmy Carter, who has spent the pandemic largely at home in Georgia, will not attend but has extended “best wishes” to Mr Biden.
In the earlier video statement, Mr Trump committed to a “seamless transition of power” as he conceded the race and condemned supporters who rioted at the US Capitol.
Mr Trump spoke out against the violence seen in Washington DC on Wednesday, calling it a “heinous attack” that left him “outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem”.
He also said now that Congress has certified the results, the “new administration will be inaugurated on January 20” and his “focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power”.
Mr Trump did not address his role in inciting the violence in his video.
Five people died as a result of the disorder at the Capitol, including a police officer who had been struck by a fire extinguisher.
But he did tell his supporters that, while he knows they are “disappointed”, he wanted them to know “our incredible journey is only just beginning”.
House Democrats announced they would impeach the president if outgoing Vice-President Mike Pence fails to work with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, which would remove Mr Trump from office.
Mr Trump offered no clues for how he would spend his final hours in office.
Mr Biden will become president at noon local time on January 20 regardless of Mr Trump’s plans.
Mr Pence is still expected to attend the inauguration which will see Kamala Harris will take over the reins of the vice-presidency.