WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Donald Trump departed the White House for the final time as president early Wednesday, just hours before President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office.
Trump emerged from the building Wednesday morning and strode across the South Lawn to board Marine One. He said, “It’s been a great honor, the honor of a lifetime.”
He was sent off with a departure ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland before traveling to Florida, where he’ll begin his post-presidency at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. The farewell event included a red carpet, a military band and a 21-gun salute.
Trump spoke to a crowd that included his family, former staff and supporters, promising “We will be back in some form.” He didn’t detail any further specifics of his plans.
“I will always fight for you,” Trump said Wednesday morning. “I will be watching. I will be listening, and I will tell you that the future of this country has never been better. I wish the new administration great luck and great success. I think they’ll have great success. They have the foundation to do something really spectacular.”
First lady Melania Trump also gave brief remarks at the farewell event, calling her role the “greatest honor.”
“Being your first lady was my greatest honor. Thank you for your love and your support. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. God bless you all. God bless your families and God bless this beautiful nation,” she said.
Trump announced earlier this month that he would not be attending Biden’s inauguration, breaking with tradition.
Trump’s No. 2, Vice President Mike Pence, is staying in the nation’s capital for the presidential transition.
Trump’s departure means he will not take part in the tradition of the outgoing and incoming presidents traveling together from the White House to the Capitol for the inauguration ceremony. He’s the first incumbent president to skip his successor’s swearing-in since Andrew Johnson.
Trump announced his plans to skip the inauguration two days after a violent mob of his supporters occupied the Capitol as Congress met to certify Biden’s Electoral College victory. It also followed several months of the president making unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud.
Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.
Trump is expected to remain in Florida with a small group of aides, though no further details of his plans are known at this time.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.