Breaking with tradition, Trump joins a short list of presidents who refused to attend their successor’s inauguration.
WASHINGTON (CN) — A day after promising the peaceful transition of power on Jan. 20, President Donald Trump said Friday he won’t attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony.
“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th,” Trump tweeted.
The last sitting president to refuse to attend his successor’s inauguration was Andrew Johnson in 1869. Johnson, who like Trump was a one-term, impeached president, was a no-show to the inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant.
Before that, John Quincy Adams didn’t attend Andrew Jackson’s inauguration in 1829, following in the footsteps of his father John Adams, who wasn’t at Thomas Jefferson’s ceremony in 1801.
Trump has yet to formally concede to Biden, although he acknowledged Thursday that a new administration would be sworn in on Jan. 20.
Despite pledging “a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power,” the outgoing president’s absence from a ceremony meant to unite the nation around new leadership in government sends a clear signal of his bitterness over his Electoral College defeat.
Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida urged Trump to reconsider his decision.
“He is, of course, not constitutionally required to attend and I can imagine losing an election is very hard, but I believe he should attend,” Scott said in a statement Friday. “I plan to attend and believe it is an important tradition that demonstrates the peaceful transfer of power to our people and to the world.”
The nation is still licking its wounds after Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to interrupt the tally of Biden’s electoral votes. House Democrats have threatened to impeach the president a second time for inciting the insurrection.
Ashli Babbit, a California woman and 14-year veteran of the Air Force, was shot and killed after entering the Capitol. Four others have died from medical emergencies or injuries sustained in the riots, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. The 42-year-old succumbed late Thursday to injuries he suffered defending the building.
While insurrectionists milled about in the Capitol Wednesday, Trump sent a myriad of messages through Twitter, at one point urging his supporters whom had gathered in the Ellipse Park just south of the White House earlier to “stay peaceful!” But during his speech at the park Wednesday morning, he urged the group to march down to the Capitol as the crowd chanted “fight for Trump!”
In a video posted while the mob stormed the Capitol, which was later removed by social media sites for violating their rules, Trump told supporters they would “have to go home now,” but also said “we love you” and called the rioters “very special.”
It wasn’t until Thursday night that Trump denounced the actions at the Capitol in a another video that was made at the urging of people close to him. He called it a “heinous attack” while falsely claiming that he had immediately deployed National Guard troops to the scene. The New York Times reported it was Vice President Mike Pence who activated the guard and that the president resisted initial requests to send in troops.
“The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy,” Trump said. “To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country and to those who broke the law, you will pay.”
Investigations into how a mob of a few thousand overtook Capitol Police forces are ongoing. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund has resigned amid criticism over the response to Wednesday’s riots.
There is a stark difference in police response to Wednesday’s insurrection and Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the nation’s capital last summer. Civil rights protesters were met with a strong show of force and hundreds were arrested, but only a few dozen have been arrested for storming the Capitol.
Many lawmakers have urged Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president to take over if the president is deemed unable to carry out his duties.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that if Pence doesn’t act, her chamber will begin rapid impeachment proceedings.
In a Democratic caucus call Friday afternoon, Pelosi reportedly said she had discussed Trump’s access to the nuclear codes with General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
She expressed concern over an unpredictable president having the ability to order a nuclear strike, but Milley assured her there are safeguards in place.
“We must take action,” Pelosi said, adding: “This unhinged president could not be more dangerous.”