Read: Among the guardsmen
Trump left the White House with his wife, Melania, at about 8:20 a.m., refusing to take questions from the press. He walked to Marine One with an ominous send-off: “I just want to say goodbye, but hopefully it’s not a long-term goodbye. We’ll see each other again.” Later, in a brief departure ceremony at Joint Base Andrews before flying to Florida, he gave a familiar and repetitive summation of what he views as his accomplishments in office. He of course neglected to mention the incident that will come to overshadow everything else that happened over the past four years: a lethal insurrection carried out by his supporters after a rally in which he’d again falsely claimed that the election was stolen. Trump may have no interest in revisiting the riot at the Capitol on January 6 that delayed the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory and took five lives, but history won’t forget it.
“This is the only president in American history who incited an insurrection against Congress that could have resulted in assassinations and hostage-taking and, conceivably, the cancellation of a free presidential election and the fracturing of a democracy,” Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian, told me. “That’s a fact, and it won’t change in 50 years. It’s very hard to think of a scenario under which someone might imagine some wonderful thing that Donald Trump did that will outshine that. He did, literally, the worst thing that an American president could ever do.”
By early afternoon, the new Biden aides had arrived in the White House, fresh from the inaugural ceremony. There were predictable hiccups: The incoming deputy press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, came through the press room with a thick binder under her arm and discovered that the door to the West Wing staff section was locked. Jean-Pierre, it turns out, inherited the office that Deere had just vacated. I later asked her if she had gotten his note. She said she hadn’t read it yet, but appreciated that he wrote it.
Adam Serwer: An incompetent authoritarian is still a catastrophe
Shortly after noon today, the main @POTUS, @WhiteHouse, and @VP Twitter accounts had changed hands. Twitter even created an account for Vice President Kamala Harris’s husband, Douglas Emhoff, called @SecondGentleman. Unlike Trump, Biden is not a Twitter obsessive. A Biden transition adviser told me that the new president would not use social media as an “abusive, psychotic mechanism to display insecurity and grievances.”
There was no mistaking the new administration for the old. Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, sat behind the desk in her office wearing a mask. Others walked through the offices wearing masks as well. During my visits to the White House last year, I observed staff members walking through hallways and talking to one another without masks. The explanation they’d give was that they were routinely tested for COVID-19. Still, the coronavirus sickened a slew of White House officials from Trump on down.