President Trump on Tuesday released an unrepentant virtual farewell address to the nation, describing himself as the “only true outsider ever to win the presidency,” ahead of his reluctant departure from office Wednesday.
Trump, who will leave the White House with about his lowest approval rating yet, treated Tuesday’s speech as a victory lap for his single term in office. He commended his response to the coronavirus, lauded his record on rewriting U.S. trade deals and cracking down on immigration, and praised his success in appointing three justices to the Supreme Court and hundreds of other judges to federal courts.
The U.S. surpassed the grim milestone of 400,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday. Only 39% of Americans approve of his handling of the pandemic, according to a new NPR poll.
Trump’s remarks also come after his second impeachment in just over a year. The House of Representatives voted to impeach him last week for having incited a violent mob to storm the U.S. Capitol during the certification of his opponent’s White House victory. A Senate trial is expected to begin soon.
“America is not a timid nation of tame souls who need to be sheltered and protected from those with whom we disagree,” Trump said in the nearly 20-minute address posted to YouTube.
“That’s not who we are. It will never be who we are,” he said, railing against what he and other Republicans have decried as “cancel culture.”
Trump, who has still not formally admitted his defeat in the race, told supporters: “This week, we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous.”
President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn into office Wednesday as the 46th president of the United States. Trump is not expected to attend the ceremony — a final dismissal of presidential decorum, the likes of which have come to define his presidency.
Trump, who inspired a legion of disaffected Republicans, told his supporters on Tuesday: “As I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning. There’s never been anything like it.”
The president has not yet indicated any career plans for when he leaves office Wednesday, but he is expected to depart the White House grounds for Florida, home to his Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago.
“The world respects us again,” Trump said, “Please don’t lose that respect.”