How did President Trump spend his last hours in office?

  • Published
Media caption,

How Trump spent his last day as president

After four years in the Oval Office, Donald Trump has taken a one-way flight on Air Force One to Florida, where he's expected to begin his post-presidential retirement.

But before he clocked off, Mr Trump had one last day - or half a day, at least - as President of the United States. Here's a look at how he spent those final hours.

Pardons and commutations

The outgoing president's last day started with dozens of last minute pardons.

Shortly after midnight local time in Washington DC, Mr Trump announced pardons for 73 people, including his former adviser Steve Bannon, who is facing fraud charges. Elliot Broidy, a former top fundraiser for Mr Trump who was convicted last year on foreign lobbying charges, also received a pardon.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Steve Bannon was a key strategist and adviser to President Trump during his 2016 campaign

An additional 70 people had sentences commuted.

Although many on the list are conventional examples of convicts whose cases have been championed by rights activists, others follow the president's trend of favouring allies.

Included on the list were rappers Lil Wayne, who pleaded guilty to a federal weapons charge last year and Kodak Black, who was also charged with firearms offences. Black's three years and 10 months sentence was commuted.

Then there came a final pardon with less than an hour to go in Mr Trump's presidency.

That was for Albert Pirro, the ex-husband of Fox News host and Trump ally Jeanine Pirro. Albert Pirro was convicted in 2000 of conspiracy and tax evasion.

White House lobbying ban scrapped

Another act taken in his final hours at the White House was to revoke the so-called "Drain the Swamp" ethics order he signed when he first took office.

That prevented officials who have recently left the government from immediately joining lobbying firms for a five year period.

The 2017 executive order's goal was to prevent his aides from using their influence for personal gain. Ethics experts at the time said the move was a step in the right direction.

It's not the first time a departing president has done a U-turn like that.

Image source, AFP via Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton controversially scrapped his own ban barring senior White House officials from lobbying when he left office in 2001.

Penning a letter to Biden

Mr Trump may have broken with 150 years of tradition by skipping President Joe Biden's inauguration - but he did leave his successor a letter in the Oval Office.

Leaving a parting letter for the Oval Office's new resident is a modern inauguration custom.

We don't know yet what he wrote in the letter - Mr Trump's outgoing staff kept mum on the details - but Mr Biden told reporters the note was "very generous".

"I will not talk about it until I talk to him," Mr Biden said.

Shortly after his own inauguration, Mr Trump said he would "cherish" the letter former president Barack Obama left for him.

We do know what was in some past notes because they have been preserved in presidential libraries.

Ronald Reagan's letter to George Bush was on stationery with the motto: "Don't let the turkeys get you down".

"You'll have moments when you want to use this particular stationery. Well, go to it," Reagan wrote.

Leaving the White House

A little after 08:00 local time, Mr Trump left the White House for the last time as president.

Media caption,

Trump leaves the White House for the last time as US president

Along with First Lady Melania Trump, he got into the presidential helicopter, but not before saying a few words.

In brief remarks Mr Trump said the White House was the greatest home in the world.

"We've had an amazing four years and we've accomplished a lot," Trump said.

"We love the American people and it has been something very special," he added.

And with a final fist pump and wave, Mr Trump boarded Marine One, which took them on a loop around the US capital - including over the inauguration site at the US Capitol - before heading to Joint Base Andrews.

Final remarks as president

It was at the air force base where Mr Trump made his final public remarks as president - but only after a 21 gun salute.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Mr Trump made his final speech as president at Joint Base Andrews

He kept them upbeat, telling his supporters that "we've left it all on the field" and said it had been "an incredible four years".

He thanked his family, friends and staff for their hard work.

Mr Trump also took a moment to wish the new administration "great success" for the future - though he did not address either Joe Biden or Kamala Harris by name.

He said it had been the "greatest honour" to be president.

Concluding his speech, he promised his supporters he will "always fight for you" .

"We will be back in some form," he vowed, before departing with Melania to the strains of the Village People's YMCA.

"So, have a good life. We will see you soon," he said.

He then boarded Air Force One destined for Florida.

Touchdown in Florida

Shortly before noon in Washington, when Joe Biden was about to take his oath of office, Air Force One landed in the Sunshine State.

Image source, Noam Galai
Image caption,
Mr Trump's flight to Florida was a family affair

He and Melania were joined by his son and daughter-in-law, Eric and Lara, elder son Don, and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, and his youngest daughter Tiffany.

The former first lady had ditched the black business suit on the journey, and emerged into the sunshine in a brightly coloured hexagon print dress. She's made no secret of her dislike of life in Washington and may relish a return to life as private citizen.

What Mr Trump's post-presidency life will look like is less clear. But as he headed to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, the ex-president will have no doubt enjoyed the crowd of supporters, waving signs and celebrating his arrival down south.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Trump supporters in Florida wave to the ex-president as he drove to his Mar-a-Lago resort