Trump did not initially want to issue a video decrying the loyalists whose actions he largely supported — and whom he said he “loved” a day earlier — but he told aides to prepare a speech and then he would decide.
Once he read over the brief script they had prepared, Trump agreed to record it Thursday evening — a relief to the senior staff, though concerns lingered he could backtrack during his final days in office given his actual position has remained unchanged: that he lost the election unfairly.
Still, having now conceded he will no longer serve a second term, Trump has begun contemplating how he will spend his final days in the White House, according to people familiar with the matter.
But with Trump ending, for now, his false bid to overturn the results of the election, hope among advisers is that he will focus, finally, on his post-presidency.
Aides still have a long list of executive actions they are hoping he will sign in his waning days, including one teed up on buy-American provisions. There is talk of a trip next week to view progress on the border wall, one of Trump’s proudest achievements. And a raft of pardons, including potentially for himself and his family, are expected in the coming days.
Aides are still discussing a farewell address or interview, but acknowledge the video Trump released Thursday saying a “new administration will be inaugurated on January 20” is as close to a concession he will get.
“My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power,” he said, speaking in monotone and reading from a teleprompter. “This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”
Trump’s highly scripted video acknowledging he will be leaving the White House is the tone his advisers hope he will stick with as he leaves office. Thursday’s video was staid, taped indoors and appeared heavily edited. Trump demonstrated little emotion as he admitted his time as president was nearing its end.
Earlier in the day, Trump called off a visit to Camp David scheduled for this weekend, according to a source familiar with the planning, which would likely have been his final time at the presidential retreat. He had been planning to go before the riots but decided Thursday, amid questions about resignations and Cabinet defections, to remain in Washington. Other “lasts” are still up in the air, such as his final flight aboard Air Force One.
Trump must also decide soon when and how he wants to depart the White House. Officials still do not expect him to attend the inauguration, though he has been asking advisers whether he should. To some he has signaled that it’s not ruled out.
Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump cursed at Wednesday after he informed the President he could not overturn the election results, according to a source familiar with the conversation, may attend depending if he is invited.
At this point, Trump is expected to go to his Mar-a-Lago members-only resort in Palm Beach, Florida, after leaving the White House for the final time, despite his displeasure at recent renovations to his private apartment there.
As he contested the results of the election, Trump refused to engage in discussions about how he wanted to spend his final days in the White House, or what he wanted to do afterward.
Officials are eager those conservations can now begin, hopeful to spend some time focusing on Trump’s “legacy,” even though many inside the building believe it will be irrevocably tarred by his behavior that led to this week’s riots.