As his days in office dwindle, and White House staff haul away reams of documents for his presidential library, President Donald Trump remains angry and isolated, exploding at any suggestion he resign early, insiders say.
Trump on Thursday remained out of public sight, and issued no statements through his few remaining avenues as staffers loaded moving trucks at the White House.
Surrounded only by a small loyal inner circle, Trump exploded recently at a casual conversation among aides at the possibility of his stepping down early, people around him told CNN.
In an expletive-laden rant, Trump forbade any mention of Richard Nixon, the last president to resign from office, and said he couldn’t count on Vice President Mike Pence to pardon him, as Gerald Ford did for Nixon, the people said.
Meanwhile, the White House exodus was in full swing ahead of the inauguration next Wednesday, with aides hauling out boxes of newspapers, artwork and a Lincoln bust.
Debbie Meadows, the wife of White House Chief of Staff, was even spotted by CNN correspondent Jim Acosta carrying away what appeared to be a taxidermied pheasant.
The White House exodus was in full swing ahead of the inauguration next Wednesday, with aides hauling out boxes of newspapers, artwork and a Lincoln bust
A van arrives to pick up boxes that were moved out of the Eisenhower Executive Office building at the White House Thursday
Workers move boxes containing old newspapers onto a truck that were stacked on West Executive Avenue on Thursday
One box appeared to contain what looked like a souvenir baseball bat. Other boxes were labeled ‘Visitor’s Office Archives’ and ‘Storage,’ or designated from Trump’s presidential library
Workers move boxes onto a truck that were stacked on West Executive Avenue between at the White House on Thursday
Visible in some of the boxes were copies of the New York Post and Washington Post from Trump’s term in office.
Another box appeared to contain what looked like a souvenir baseball bat. Other boxes were labeled ‘Visitor’s Office Archives’ and ‘Storage.’
Some of the boxes were marked ‘Presidential Library Gifts.’ Trump has yet to outline any plans for his post-presidency, from establishing an office to selecting a site for a potential presidential library.
Trump has held open the door to running for the White House again in 2024, but the Senate could shut it as soon as next week, when it begins Trump’s second impeachment trial. If convicted, Trump could be barred by the Senate from running for federal office again – and even stripped of his pension.
Meanwhile, moving trucks were also spotted in DC’s upscale Kalorama neighborhood, outside the townhouse of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Hired movers carefully loaded up furniture and artwork, all wrapped up to prevent damage in transport.
The couple, who have been White House advisors throughout Donald Trump’s term, are following him to Florida after he leaves office.
Kushner and Ivanka Trump recently bought a $30 million home on Miami’s Indian Creek Island, the exclusive enclave known as ‘Billionaire’s Bunker.’
Donald Trump plans to fly to Mar-a-Lago on the morning of Inauguration Day, snubbing President-elect Joe Biden by skipping the ceremony.
White House advisor Ivanka Trump exits the West Wing of the White House in Washington DC on Thursday
A moving truck arrived in front of Jared and Ivanka’s Washington, DC home in the upscale Kalorama neighborhood
Movers taking art out of Jared and Ivanka’s DC home. Kushner and Ivanka Trump recently bought a $30 million home on Miami’s Indian Creek Island, the exclusive enclave known as ‘Billionaire’s Bunker’
Movers are seen working inside the Kalorama townhouse. The couple, who have been White House advisors throughout Donald Trump’s term, are following him to Florida after he leaves office
Movers pack a carefully wrapped item at Jared and Ivanka’s home, loading up a truck with the couple’s belongings
Hired movers carefully loaded up furniture and artwork, all wrapped up to prevent damage in transport
Trump (seen Tuesday) remained out of public sight on Thursday, and issued no statements through his few remaining avenues as staffers loaded moving trucks at the White House
In recent days, Trump has remained isolated, spending much of his time in the White House residence, insiders say, as he shuns the typical steps outgoing presidents take to try to cement their legacy.
Pence has stepped up to carry out the normal ceremonial duties, visiting national guardsmen posted at the U.S. Capitol and dropping in on the White House operators to say farewell.
Trump’s last days in the White House have been marked by rage and turmoil, multiple sources said. He watched some of the impeachment debate on TV and grew angry at the Republican defections, a source familiar with the situation said.
Trump has suffered a sudden rupture with his vice president, the departure of disgusted senior advisers, his abandonment by a small but growing number of Republican lawmakers, the loss of his cherished Twitter megaphone, and a rush by corporations and others to distance themselves from him and his businesses.
‘Everybody feels like they´re doing the best job they can to hold it all together until Biden takes over,’ one Trump adviser told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Even as Trump has spent time venting to aides and confidantes, one tangible issue he has been focused on is how to apply his power to pardon before his term ends, three White House sources said.
The biggest question is whether he will issue an unprecedented pardon to himself, in addition to family members, before leaving office.
While Trump has not publicly signaled his intention to take a step that some legal analysts say could be unlawful, one White House official told Reuters: ‘I’ve been expecting that.’
A man carries framed items to a car as he leave the Eisenhower Executive Office building on Thursday
A person carries a plant out of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds on Thursday
Workers move boxes that were stacked on West Executive Avenue into a truck outside the White House
Trump has yet to outline any plans for his post-presidency, from establishing an office to selecting a site for a potential presidential library
The chances of Trump making such a contentious move may have multiplied due to the uproar over his January 6 speech in which he repeatedly urged his supporters to ‘fight’ for him before they stormed the U.S. Capitol. Some legal experts say this could open him up to lawsuits or even criminal charges.
Addressing the crowd on January 6, Trump suggested several times that he would join in their march to the Capitol and appealed at least six times to Pence to ‘do the right thing’ and refuse to certify Biden’s victory in the formal counting of the electoral vote in Congress that day.
Trump and his surrogates had built up a narrative that Pence, whose role in the certification process was mostly ceremonial, could intervene in Congress and stop the certification of the vote.
Trump’s speech followed an exasperated conversation with his vice president, a longtime loyalist, earlier on January 6 when Trump called Pence ‘a p***y’ for not being willing to overturn the vote, a source briefed on the matter said. The exchange was reported earlier by The New York Times.
Trump’s political future could now be in jeopardy as a result of the Capitol violence. If convicted by the Senate in a trial that would occur after he has left the White House, Trump could be banned from holding federal office again.
Trump watched Wednesday´s rapid-fire impeachment proceedings on television from the White House, sources said, stepping away briefly to hand out National Medal of Arts awards to country music artists Toby Keith and Ricky Skaggs.
A man looks as he leaves the Eisenhower Executive Office building with a box in his hands, inside the White House complex
A person loads a photo of U.S. President Donald Trump into a car outside the West Wing of the White House
A worker stacks boxes on West Executive Avenue before loading them onto a truck at the White House in Washington, DC
Even before the riot, Trump´s mood had been darkening as dozens of court cases filed by his legal team and surrogates failed to overturn the voting results in key swing states, people familiar with the matter said.
Aides who would enjoy dropping by the Oval Office to check on Trump found themselves avoiding him lest he give them an assignment related to voter fraud that they knew was impossible, three sources said.
His mood has only worsened since the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol. He has fumed in private about the decision by Twitter, his favorite means of communication with his followers, to permanently suspend his account on the grounds that it was concerned he could incite further mayhem, two people familiar with the matter said.
With Trump scrambling to find an alternative platform, his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner helped head off an attempt by other aides to get him signed up on fringe, far-right social media sites, believing they were not the best format for the president, said an administration official. A representative for Kushner declined comment.
Pence and Trump did not speak for days after the Capitol riot. The vice president had to be spirited to safety in the Capitol basement after rioters, some chanting ‘Hang Mike Pence,’ penetrated the building.
People leave the Eisenhower Executive Office building with framed items, inside the White House complex, Thursday
People wait for a moving van as they move boxes out of the Eisenhower Executive Office building
Workers move boxes onto a truck that were stacked on West Executive Avenue between the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC on Thursday
Current and former White House officials say they were aghast at how Trump treated Pence, who has been a steady and loyal lieutenant. They were stung by the president´s criticism and false insistence that the vice president could intervene to overturn the Electoral College results. Trump also never called Pence to check on him during his ordeal, an aide said.
On Monday, the two men met alone in the Oval Office, likely following efforts and appeals by Ivanka Trump and Kushner, according to one White House official. The two men walked out of the meeting in good spirits, chuckling together about something. ‘The body language was good,’ the official said.
The next day, Pence wrote to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he would not exercise the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to remove the president from office for incapacitation, despite pressure from Democrats.
Decisions on a final round of presidential pardons are expected to occupy much of Trump´s few remaining days in office.
He has stirred controversy in recent weeks by pardoning allies convicted in the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, security contractors convicted of killing Iraqi civilians, and Kushner’s father, Charles, a real estate developer sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty in 2004 to tax evasion and other crimes.
Trump and his family have potential legal exposure of their own, including investigations in New York over tax and business dealings.
One White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested Trump´s final act as president could be a preemptive pardon for family members and for himself just before Biden is sworn in. Presidential pardons apply only to federal crimes, not violations of state law.
A self-pardon would be an extraordinary use of power never before tried by a U.S. president, and constitutional lawyers say there is no definitive answer on whether it can be done lawfully.
One thing Trump’s staff don´t expect: a resignation. ‘I would be floored if that were to happen,’ another White House official said.