As Trump prepares to give Biden the ultimate snub, militia groups send an ominous message

Griffin Connolly
·3-min read
<p>The US Capitol decked out for the inauguration</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

The US Capitol decked out for the inauguration

(AFP via Getty Images)

With less than 24 hours left as president, Donald Trump appears eager as ever to take a sledgehammer to tradition and decorum on his way out the door.

Mr Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are fleeing the executive residence on Wednesday morning for Mar-a-Lago, the president’s club in Florida, shortly before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration proceedings commence.

It will be the first time since Andrew Johnson vacated the White House in 1869 that a president hasn’t been there to welcome the incoming first family.

Traditionally, the outgoing president and first lady invite their successors into the White House for coffee ahead of the inauguration and travel to the ceremony together. The Bidens will instead be greeted by White House chief usher Timothy Harleth, who prior to that role was the director of rooms at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

Ms Trump will not give her successor, Jill Biden, a tour of the White House – a tradition among outgoing and incoming first ladies that spans a century.

In a farewell video on Monday, Ms Trump urged Americans to “focus on what unites us, to rise above what divides us, to always choose love over hatred, peace over violence, and others before yourself”.

But the Trumps’ pettiness goes beyond matters of decorum. It has seeped into last-ditch attempts to influence national policy once the lame-duck president is out of office.

Watch: Trump considers pardons during final day in office

The Trump administration on Monday announced plans to roll back bans on travel from the UK, where Covid has been surging, as well as Europe and Brazil.

Mr Biden’s incoming press secretary, Jen Psaki, quickly shot that proposal down, as it is not expected to take effect until 26 January, by which time the president-elect will have assumed command of the country.

“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” Ms Psaki said.

The Senate, meanwhile, returns today with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expected to receive the House-ratified article of impeachment from Speaker Nancy Pelosi sometime in the coming days – although no one knows for sure when Ms Pelosi will physically transmit the document.

But this week’s main focus in Washington is getting through Mr Biden’s inauguration without another national security crisis like the insurrection at the Capitol on 6 January.

Armed militia groups have begun congregating at state capitols all over the country. In DC, as many as 25,000 members of the National Guard will be in town to watch over federal lawmakers, Biden administration officials, and other political dignitaries attending the swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday.

Despite voting to block Mr Biden’s presidency, several Republicans – from fiery House freshmen such as North Carolina Congressman Madison Cawthorn to longtime Senate demagogues like Ted Cruz of Texas – are nevertheless attending the inauguration.

And as the clock on the Trump administration dwindles, the president’s detractors have gathered in Black Lives Matter Plaza in downtown Washington to deliver one final message.

Watch: Donald Trump in profile