As the smoke clears from this month’s pro-Trump insurrection at the Capitol, the president reminded his supporters that their movement is “just beginning” in a farewell speech to the nation.
“Now, as I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning,” he said in his farewell talk. “There’s never been anything like it.”
He also wished the Biden administration luck.
“This week we inaugurate a new administration, and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous. We extend our best wishes, and want them to have luck, a very important word,” he said in his speech from the White House, even as he skipped the symbolic transfer of power at the inauguration.
Read more: Where will Trump be on Inauguration Day?
Mr Trump’s speech didn’t address the new president by name, nor did it acknowledge or apologise for his role in riling up a group of supporters just before they stormed the Capitol. Even the outgoing Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell recently said “the mob was fed lies" and “they were provoked by the president.”
Instead, the president, who told supporters “you’ll never take back our country with weakness” in a speech just before the attack, while top surrogates like Rudy Giuliani called for a “trial by combat” over the election, painted the events more abstractly.
“All Americans were horrified by the assault on our Capitol,” he said. “Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated.”
Mr Trump also thanked vice president Mike Pence and his family, despite reported tensions between the two men after Mr Pence declined the president’s wishes to halt a ceremonial certification of the election results the day of the Capitol riot. Mr Pence is reportedly attending the Biden inauguration, as is the common tradition, instead of Mr Trump’s unprecedented personal send-off ceremony the same day.
The president spent months railing against the election with baseless conspiracy theories and insisting he won before conceding in January. Before that, he spent years launching brutal partisan attacks, but in his remarks he recast his record to emphasise a bipartisan spirit that rarely if ever materialised while he held the White House.
“Now more than ever we must unify around our shared values and rise above the partisan rancour and forge our common destiny,” he told Americans.
Most notably absent in the remarks was a deep discussion of the coronavirus, which on Tuesday officially killed more than 400,000 by the president’s last day in office. The president mainly analysed the “China virus,” as he called it, with an eye towards his successes, including supporting the rapid development of a “medical miracle” vaccine, and argued a strong economy helped blunt the impact of Covid.
“We and the whole word got hit by the China virus,” he said. “The virus forced us to go in a different direction. The whole world suffered, but America outperformed other countries economically because of our incredible economy and the economy that we built.”
The president spoke almost as if the US had escaped the worst of the disease, even though cases continue to skyrocket and the economy continues to suffer.
“We grieve for every life lost, and pledge in their memory to wipe out this terrible pandemic once and for all,” Mr Trump said. “When the virus took its brutal toll on the world’s economy, we launched the fastest economic recovery the world has ever seen.”