How Trump is breaking with tradition leading up to Biden's inauguration

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In keeping with a theme throughout his presidency, outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump has broken with tradition at several points as he and First Lady Melania Trump prepare to vacate the White House.

Here’s a closer look at the ways in which this transition of power has been unlike the rest.

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No White House visit

Trump has not extended an invitation to the Bidens to attend the White House for the traditional bread-breaking, nor has he spoken with the president-elect by phone in the days and weeks leading up to the inauguration.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are set to be sworn-in on Wednesday.

What’s more, it is customary for the outgoing president to invite the president-elect and their spouse into the White House the morning of the inauguration, however the Trumps have no plans to do so.

The tradition is meant to signal a peaceful transition of power, as the reins are formally handed over to the new administration.

A source told CNN that instead of the Trumps, the Bidens will be greeted by the White House chief usher, Timothy Harleth.

In a post on Instagram in November, former First Lady Michelle Obama said that after the 2016 election, she and former president Barack Obama invited members of Trump’s team into their offices and prepared “detailed memos for them, offering what we’d learned over the past eight years.”

She said that while “none of this was easy,” she knew for the sake of the country that she “had to find the strength and maturity to put my anger aside.”

Michelle said she also welcomed Melania into the White House, and “talked with her about my experience, answering every question she had — from the heightened scrutiny that comes with being First Lady to what it’s like to raise kids in the White House.”

“I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do — because our democracy is so much bigger than anybody’s ego.”

To date, Melania has not extended a similar invitation to incoming First Lady Jill Biden, breaking with a years-long tradition in the country.

Instead, on Monday, the outgoing first lady posted a farewell message on social media, saying the last four years have been “unforgettable.”

“The promise of this nation belongs to all of us,” Trump said in a pre-recorded video. “Do not lose sight of your integrity and values.”

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“Use every opportunity to show consideration for another person and build good habits into our daily lives,” she continued.

She did not make mention of Jill Biden or the new administration in the video.

Trump released a farewell address of his own on Tuesday, which touted his administration’s accomplishments.

He did not mention Biden by name in the video, but said he wished the new administration “luck.”

“This week, we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous,” he said.

“We extend our best wishes and we also want them to have luck, a very important word.”

Pence, Harris speak

Despite Trump’s refusal to communicate with the incoming administration, on Thursday current Vice President Mike Pence and Harris spoke on the phone, U.S. media reported.

A person familiar with the conversation told CNN that the call was cordial and that the outgoing vice president offered his congratulations and assistance.

Two unnamed sources described the interaction to The Associated Press as a “good call.”

In November 2016, Biden, Pence and their spouses met for lunch at the Naval Observatory after an earlier meeting at the White House.

“I told Mike, the vice president-elect, that I’m available to him 24/7,” Biden — who then served as the country’s vice president — said after the get-together.

“I plan on being available to Mike as senior staff for him as he moves.”

One Biden aide told The Washington Post they remembered creating binders and briefing top Pence staffers in a “dutiful” attempt to ease the transition.

A former aide to Pence agreed, telling the paper they thought Biden and his team “did what they could to make a smooth transition for us.”

Empty seats at the inauguration ceremony

Trump is also breaking with tradition by refusing to attend Biden and Harris’ inauguration ceremony. It is customary for all living former presidents to attend.

The outgoing president has skipped the incoming president’s swearing-in only three times in U.S. history. Andrew Johnson was the last to do so 152 years ago.

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Trump confirmed his plans in a tweet earlier this month saying: “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

He is reportedly planning to leave Washington, D.C., Wednesday morning.

Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters the outgoing president is planning a ceremonial farewell at Joint Base Andrews, the base outside Washington where Air Force One is headquartered.

The farewell could include a 21-gun salute, one source said, but also told the outlet the plans could change.

Trump is then expected to fly to Palm Beach, Fla., to his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Pence, meanwhile, is expected to remain in Washington, and attend the inauguration — a decision Biden has welcomed.

“I think it’s important,” he said, that, as much as possible, “the historical precedents” with respect to the peaceful transfer of power “be maintained.”

Failure to concede

In the months since the November election, Trump has repeatedly claimed without providing evidence that mass fraud led to his defeat.

To date, he has not formally conceded.

His team exhausted its legal options to pursue those claims, despite officials from across the country and within the government confirming there was no indication of widespread voter fraud or irregularities.

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In a video released earlier this month, Trump came close to conceding, saying “a new administration will be inaugurated on Jan. 20,” and adding that he will focus on the “smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”

The video came a day after thousands of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, sending hundreds of lawmakers, their staff and journalists fleeing.

The riots left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer. It also led to the historic second impeachment of Trump.

In the video, Trump mentioned neither Biden nor suggested the Democrat had won the election fairly.

His refusal to concede is unprecedented in American history.

Handover letter

It is also tradition that the outgoing president writes the new commander-in-chief a letter to be left on the desk in the Oval Office.

The letter is meant to offer advice or guidance to the incoming president as they prepare to take over the country’s highest office.

In the letters, the outgoing presidents also offer reflections of their time in office.

In 2017, former president Barack Obama left a note for Trump, calling his election victory a “remarkable run.”

“Millions have placed their hopes in you, and all of us, regardless of party, should hope for expanded prosperity and security during your tenure,” the letter read.

Obama continued, saying they are “just temporary occupants of this office.”

“That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions — like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties — that our forebears fought and bled for,” he wrote. “It’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.”

It was not immediately clear whether Trump intends to leave a letter for Biden. However, the tradition has been kept alive for decades, through other contentious elections.

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Despite the bitter 1992 election, former President George Bush left a note for his successor, Bill Clinton, saying he wished him “great happiness here.”

“I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course,” he wrote.

“Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you. Good luck — George.”

If Trump chooses not to leave a letter for Biden, it would end a 32-year-old tradition.

— with files from Global News’ Katie Dangerfield, The Associated Press and Reuters

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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