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Trump pledges to make return 'in some form'

By AI HEPING in New York | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-01-22 07:20

US President Donald Trump leaves Palm Beach International Airport on route to his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida, US, January 20, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Donald Trump left the White House on Wednesday morning for the final time as US president and vowed to "be back in some form".

Shortly after 8:10 am, he walked from the building onto a red carpet, hand in hand with first lady Melania Trump.

He walked over to a group of reporters and told them the past four years had been "the honor of a lifetime".

Trump then boarded the Marine One helicopter for the short journey to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, where he boarded Air Force One for a flight to his residence in Florida-the Mar-a-Lago resort that he once dubbed the "Southern White House".

At the airfield, Trump was greeted by a 21-gun salute and a small crowd of supporters, including members of his staff and family.

Teleprompters had been set up on a stage, and a speech had been prepared for him by aides who thought he should thank President-elect Joe Biden by name, but the teleprompters were removed before Trump arrived.

He did not deliver the speech and did not mention Biden's name. However, he thanked Vice-President Mike Pence, who didn't attend the farewell event but was present at Biden's inauguration.

Trump spoke without notes, telling the crowd, most of whom were not wearing face masks, "We were not a regular administration." He asked them to "remember" all his accomplishments. "We will be back in some form," he added.

"I will always fight for you. I will be watching; I will be listening. And I will tell you that the future of this country has never been better. I wish the new administration great luck and great success," he said.

"I hope they don't raise your taxes. If they do, I told you so," he said.

His last words before getting on the plane were, "Have a good life, we will see you soon."

With a recording of Frank Sinatra's My Way playing, the 45th president of the US and his family members took off on Air Force One for Florida, where he will live.

The plane landed at Palm Beach International Airport about 11 am. There was no crowd to greet Trump and his family.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump, 74, plans to retain a small number of former White House officials in Florida and has begun talking to associates about raising money for his presidential library. He has also discussed with advisers the possibility of delivering paid speeches, the report said.

Although he did not attend the inauguration-the first outgoing president to skip the event in 152 years-Trump did follow a three-decade-long tradition of departing US leaders-leaving his successor a note in the Oval Office, wishing him well.

This tradition was started in 1989 by outgoing president Ronald Reagan. Past presidents have left such notes in the ornate Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, where incoming chief executives have found them immediately on starting their four-year terms.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump left a letter of 45 or 46 words.

Biden told reporters on Wednesday afternoon from the Oval Office: "The president wrote a very generous letter. Because it was private, I won't talk about it until I talk to him. But it was generous."

Outgoing Vice-President Mike Pence also left a note for his successor, Kamala Harris.

On his final night in the White House, Trump signed last-minute pardons and other clemency orders for 143 people, including Steve Bannon, his former chief strategist, well-connected celebrities and nonviolent drug offenders. However, he did not pre-emptively pardon himself or his family.

The White House did not announce the pardons until after midnight and then followed up with an order revoking the ethics rules Trump imposed on his former aides.

Polls indicate that Trump left office retaining strong support among rank-and-file Republicans, but he also departed as the most unpopular president in the history of polling, according to the Gallup organization, with a 41 percent job approval rating for his four-year term, the lowest for any president for more than 70 years.

Barack Obama averaged 47.9 percent for job approval in his eight years in the White House, while George W. Bush averaged 49.4. percent.

Trump also is the first president never to break the 50 percent job approval rating in any poll conducted by Gallup during his term. In the final Gallup poll for him, his rating was 34 percent.

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