On Friday the 8th of January 2021, Donald Trump announced that he would not be attending Joe Biden’s inauguration later this month. Instead, the current president is expected to travel to his resort in Florida. The decision was clarified in a tweet which read: “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
It had been widely speculated that Trump would be absent, however this is the first time that those suspicions have been confirmed. The majority of Inauguration Day events have been made virtual as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous reports had implied that Trump was considering hosting a separate event on the same day “to counter the highly-watched ceremony.” Reports suggested he may use January 20th to launch his 2024 presidential campaign.
Joe Biden replied: “It’s a good thing him not showing up,” adding that the move was “one of the few things him and I ever agreed on.” However, Biden said Vice President Pence is “welcome” to attend the ceremony, as he would be “honoured to have him here.” While NBC reported that Pence was likely to attend the swearing-in, a spokesperson said that he and his wife were yet to make a decision on the matter.
Only three presidents have ever refused to be at their successor’s inauguration. Those to have done so were: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Johnson. Trump is the first since 1869 to make such a choice. In usual circumstances, the departing president and the president-elect travel together from the White House to the ceremony at the Capitol.
Republican Senator Rick Scott has criticised Trump’s behaviour. He explained, “I am urging the President to reconsider his decision to skip the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. 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.”
Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton have confirmed that they will travel for the inauguration alongside their spouses. 96-year-old Jimmy Carter and his wife will not make the journey, however offered Biden and VP-elect Kamala Harris their “best wishes,” as they “look forward to a successful administration.”