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For 1st Time In 150 Years, Outgoing President Doesn't Attend Inauguration


He took one last look back at the White House, one last ride in the Marine One chopper, looking over the vista of the National Mall, one last moment of pomp with a 21-gun salute and one last speech to his supporters.


DONALD TRUMP: So have a good life. We will see you soon. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.


KELLY: And then Donald Trump took one last ride in Air Force One to Florida, where, at noon, he became former President Trump. NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe is here now.

Hey, Ayesha.


KELLY: Walk us through what Trump was doing this week to get ready for this moment, his final moment in office.

RASCOE: We didn't see him much. We've talked for weeks now about how he didn't accept the fact that he lost the election to Joe Biden.

KELLY: Yeah.

RASCOE: And today, he did not attend Inauguration Day to be a part of a symbolic peaceful transfer of power. And obviously, the transfer wasn't peaceful because of the insurrection by hundreds of his supporters two weeks ago at the Capitol. And the House impeached him, charging that he incited that insurrection.

Trump did spend some of his final hours on pardons and commutations, about 70 of each. He commuted the sentences of a bunch of people who had drug offenses - more normal people, some who were serving life sentences. But he also pardoned his former aide Steve Bannon, rapper Lil Wayne and, you know, a raft of other people with political connections. And in his last 35 minutes before he landed in Florida, he did one last pardon from the plane. And that was of the former husband of Fox News personality Judge Jeanine Pirro, who is a very strong supporter of his.

KELLY: OK. Now, he has spoken a couple of times. We heard the end of his speech there from Andrews earlier. And then he did that recorded video farewell address yesterday. What stood out to you, Ayesha, from what he had to say?

RASCOE: He did finally start to acknowledge more that he was actually leaving, that a new administration was coming in. He did go so far today as to wish them well, to wish them success and to say that he did think that they'd be successful. But you know, we have to point that out - that he did this in the context of, you know, not showing up for inauguration. And he also never said Joe Biden's name, which seems to be a sign of at least some disrespect. Like, he never mentioned Joe Biden's name publicly, saying that he would be president. But we do know that he left a note for now-President Biden, and President Biden said that it was very generous.

KELLY: What of Vice President Pence - now former Vice President Pence? He did not show up at Andrews to say goodbye. He was at the Capitol for the inauguration ceremony.

RASCOE: Yeah, it was interesting because Pence has spent four years being really careful not to go against Trump. But after what happened at the Capitol where Pence was there that day when the insurrection happened and some of his supporters - Trump's supporters were threatening him, Pence has, you know, played the role traditionally played by the president - the outgoing president. And he was there at the inauguration. He was also there, you know, at the end, saying goodbye to now-Vice President Harris. And so he did the things that a president would normally do - an outgoing president would normally do.

KELLY: That is NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe.

Thank you, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAMBERT SONG, "GRAUER BETON (REWORK)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.