President Trump made his first official public appearance since Election Day on Wednesday, observing Veterans Day in a traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
Trump, who is defying declarations that he lost his reelection bid, did not speak at the event.
The president and his entourage – including first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence – did not arrive at the tomb until well after the scheduled start time of 11 a.m. ET. The president’s motorcade was still driving toward the tomb as a gun salute to veterans rang out, according to the White House pool report.
It wasn’t until nearly 11:25 that the president appeared on a walkway in front of the tomb, where he stood alongside Pence in a steady rain. Trump walked toward the wreath, laid a hand on it, paused, and then returned to his spot. The ceremony was over soon afterwards. It was the only event listed on the president’s public schedule for Wednesday.
President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, attended a separate ceremony in Philadelphia, where they honored veterans at the Korean War Memorial. That event included several brief speeches by veterans, with Biden looking on. Like Trump, he did not deliver a speech.
The Bidens took part in a wreath-laying ceremony, carrying a wreath together that they placed it at the base of the memorial. After the event, the couple remained at the site to speak with other attendees.
Trump has refused to concede the presidential election to Biden, who has been declared to have captured enough electoral votes to win the White House thanks to significant leads in key states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan. The president is attempting to challenge the results with lawsuits, most of which have failed.
Previous Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington have also been brief, but some details set this year’s event apart: It was closed to the public, due to COVID-19 safety guidelines; and the president did not make a speech at the cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater after the formal wreath-laying.
In the past, that portion of the proceedings has often featured a speech honoring members of the U.S. armed services, along with a prayer service and performances by military musicians.
In addition to coronavirus restrictions, Arlington National Cemetery says the amphitheater is closed for renovations; it’s slated to reopen to the public late this month.
Trump and several other administration officials did not wear face masks, despite Arlington National Cemetery requirements that state, “All visitors are to follow social distancing requirements and wear face coverings while on cemetery grounds. Anyone not having a face covering in their possession at cemetery entry points will not be granted access to the cemetery.”