President Donald Trump trumpeted his administration’s accomplishments and wished his successor luck in a farewell video as he spent his final full day in office preparing to issue a flurry of pardons in a near-deserted White House, surrounded by an extraordinary security presence outside.
“This week we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous,” Mr Trump said in the video farewell address, released by the White House less than 24 hours before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“We extend our best wishes. And we also want them to have luck — a very important word.”
Mr Trump, who spent months trying to delegitimise Mr Biden’s win with baseless allegations of mass voter fraud, repeatedly referred to the “next administration”, but declined to utter Mr Biden’s name.
Many of Mr Trump’s supporters continue to believe the election was stolen from him, even though a long list of judges, Republican state officials and even Trump’s own government have said there is no evidence to support that claim.
Mr Trump in his address tried to cast his presidency as a triumph for everyday people as he highlighted what he sees as his top achievements, including efforts to normalise relations in the Middle East, the development of coronavirus vaccinations and the creation of a new Space Force.
And he tried to defend the endless controversies that have consumed the last four years as justified.
“As president, my top priority, my constant concern, has always been the best interests of American workers and American families,” he said.
“I did not seek the easiest course; by far, it was actually the most difficult.
“I did not seek the path that would get the least criticism.
“I took on the tough battles, the hardest fights, the most difficult choices because that’s what you elected me to do.”
Mr Trump also made clear that he has no plans of going quietly into the night, telling his supporters that, as he prepares “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.”
Mr Trump has remained largely out of sight since his supporters stormed the Capitol building earlier this month, trying to halt the peaceful transfer of power.
Aides had urged him to spend his final days in office participating in a series of legacy-burnishing events.
But Mr Trump, who remains consumed with anger and grievance over his election loss, largely refused.
He has not been seen in public since last week, when he travelled to Texas for one last photo opportunity at the border wall he pushed so adamantly throughout his presidency.
In the end, he spent less than 45 minutes on the ground there and spoke for just 21 minutes.
Mr Trump is set to leave Washington early Wednesday morning after a grand farewell event at nearby Joint Base Andrews.
Once there, he will board Air Force One for a final time, flying to Florida and becoming the first outgoing president in more than a century to skip the inauguration of his successor.
But it remains unclear how many people will be there to see him off.
Several former administration officials-turned-Trump critics have expressed surprise that they received invitations.
And even Vice President Mike Pence will be absent.
A person familiar with his schedule cited the logistical challenges of getting from the base back to DC for Mr Biden’s inauguration ceremonies, which Mr Pence will be attending.
Mr Trump has also refused to take part in any of the symbolic passing-of-the-torch traditions that have been the capstones of the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.
He is boycotting not just the ceremony at the Capitol, but also passed on inviting the Bidens to the White House for a get-to-know-you meeting.
And it remains unclear whether he will write Mr Biden a personal welcome letter, like the one he received from former president Barack Obama when he moved in.