President Donald Trump departed Washington, D.C., on Wednesday for his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, his last time doing so as president of the United States, as his term of office is set to expire at noon today.
Trump left the White House by helicopter around 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Shortly after, he arrived at a send-off ceremony at Joint Base Andrews.
NBC News described that send-off for Trump as “a rally-like setup” that featured a red carpet for the departing commander-in-chief. American flags and banners were strewn about the base, with loud music playing as people waited for his arrival, waving him off as he boarded Air Force One a final time as president.
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Per reporting from CNN’s Jake Tapper, the final song playing on the speakers was Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” perhaps symbolic of the stubborn and bull-headed governing style that Trump employed while serving in the White House.
Trump broke with tradition as president by not participating in the peaceful transfer of power — in more ways than one. Aside from being the first president in decades not to attend his successor’s swearing-in ceremony, Trump also spent the past several months disputing the outcome of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, who defeated Trump by an Electoral College margin of 74 (Biden’s 306 votes to Trump’s 232).
Trump’s refusal to accept the results, arguing falsely and without proof of any kind that his loss was the result of election fraud, came to a head when on January 6 he held a rally outside the White House where hundreds of his supporters had gathered to hear him speak. By many people’s accounts, his words that day encouraged the mob of his loyalists at that rally to violently breach the Capitol building during the certification of his political opponent’s win, an action that is unheard of and unprecedented in the history of the United States.
Because of Trump’s refusal to accept the results of Biden’s win, and because of the way his words likely incited the mob of his loyalists to try and disrupt the process of certifying the Electoral College results, Trump leaves office with some of his worst polling numbers since the start of his presidency. Polling from Gallup, for example, shows that only 34 percent of Americans approve of the way he’s performed his job, his lowest approval rating in that poll specifically.
Trump never received an approval rating of 50 percent or higher in Gallup’s set of polls during his presidency, only getting as high as 49 percent approval in the short period of time after his acquittal in the Senate following his impeachment in the House, but before the coronavirus pandemic took off in the U.S.
Trump’s dismal approval rating from Gallup as he leaves office is actually one point lower than what it was shortly after he described white supremacists and neo-Nazis, who attacked counterprotesters at a “Unite the Right” rally in the summer of 2017, as “very fine people.”
A look at an average of Trump’s polling numbers, according to data compiled at RealClearPolitics.com, shows just how tumultuous his time as president truly was. Trump took office with the country divided — winning the presidency but losing the popular vote. In his first week as president, much of the country appeared willing to at least give Trump a chance with 44.3 percent expressing approval on average in polls and 44.2 percent expressing disapproval.
But as time went by — and after a number of controversial statements and actions from Trump clearly demonstrated that he was not interested in becoming a unifying figure — the gap between his approval and disapproval rating widened, with a net disapproval rating lasting throughout his tenure after that first week in office.
Even though he departs with such a low approval rating, the outgoing president promised that he’d make a return to politics in the future.
“I will be watching. I will be listening,” Trump said in his remarks, adding later, “we will be back in some form.”
As Trump leaves the White House, his successor enters office with high favorability ratings. A new CNN/SSRS poll released this week shows that 66 percent of Americans approve of the way Biden has handled the transition period, with 59 percent giving him positive favorability ratings overall.