WASHINGTON - For three decades, each departing U.S. president has left his successor a short note wishing him well as he takes office. But whether Donald Trump will leave such a note for President-elect Joe Biden is not known.
Past presidents have left their notes in the ornate Resolute Desk in the White House Oval Office, where the new chief executive will find the good wishes immediately upon starting his four-year term.
Republican Ronald Reagan started the tradition in 1989. In his note, Reagan told his former vice president and incoming president George H.W. Bush: “George, I treasure the memories we share and wish you all the very best. You’ll be in my prayers.”
Four years later, Bush graciously offered good wishes to the Democrat who had defeated him in the November election, Bill Clinton.
“Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you,” he said.
After two terms in the White House, Clinton told his successor, George W. Bush — George H.W. Bush’s son — in 2001, “You lead a proud, decent, good people. And from this day, you are president of all of us. I salute you and wish you success and much happiness.”
After eight years as president, Bush offered Democrat Barack Obama his good wishes in 2009.
“There will be trying moments. The critics will rage. Your ‘friends’ will disappoint you. But, you will have an Almighty God to comfort you, a family who loves you, and a country that is pulling for you, including me.”
As he left office four years ago after two terms in office, Obama wished Trump well, even though he had campaigned in 2016 for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“Congratulations on a remarkable run,” Obama wrote to Trump. “Millions have placed their hopes in you, and all of us, regardless of party, should hope for expanded prosperity and security during your tenure. Michelle and I wish you and Melania the very best as you embark on this great adventure, and know that we stand ready to help in any ways which we can.”
Whether Trump follows suit with a note to Biden is unknown, because Trump has already said he plans to break a string of long-standing traditions linked to the peaceful transition of power in Washington.
Departing presidents usually greet their successors at the White House on the morning of Inauguration Day, and they ride together to the U.S. Capitol for the new president’s inauguration ceremony.
But Trump said he is leaving before the inauguration for his own red-carpet, military send-off at an air base outside Washington, D.C., boarding Air Force One for the last time for a flight to his Atlantic oceanfront mansion in Florida.
His refusal to attend Biden’s inauguration marks the first time in 160 years that an outgoing U.S. president has skipped his successor’s swearing-in ceremony, normally a public symbol of the peaceful transfer of power in the American democracy.
Trump, a real estate titan-turned-Republican politician, has refused to concede he lost the November election to Biden, a Democratic fixture on the Washington political scene for nearly a half century.
For several weeks, Trump has made claims that he was cheated out of a second term even as dozens of judges, some of them appointed by Trump, found no substantial evidence of fraud that would have upended Biden’s victory.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump last week after he urged thousands of his supporters to march to the Capitol on January 6 to confront lawmakers as they certified the Electoral College vote acknowledging Biden’s win.
The Trump supporters stormed into the Capitol, ransacked some congressional offices and scuffled with police, mayhem that left five people dead, including a police officer whose death is being investigated as a homicide. Dozens have been arrested on various charges as the investigation continues.
Trump faces a Senate trial on a single impeachment charge — that he incited insurrection. If convicted, he could be barred from ever holding office again.