Joe Biden sworn in as 46th president of the United States on Wednesday
Trump leaves White House pending 'impeachment' that will determine his political future
WashingtonIf anyone has anything to celebrate this week in Washington, it's the hoteliers. With the city taken over by more than 20,000 National Guard troops, who arrived from all 50 states to fortify the center of the U.S. capital, several hotels have reopened after months of lethargy over the pandemic. Most of their guests wear military khaki, the dominant color in the city for the past week. A colour that underlines the seriousness of the moment, the anomaly with which Donald Trump's turbulent term of office ends and Joe Biden's begins. From six o'clock in the evening, Catalan time, he will become the 46th president of the United States.
Biden, whose main motto during the campaign was "heal the nation's soul", faces a stratospheric challenge at the White House. He is returning to the institution four years after being Barack Obama's second, at 78, as the oldest person to take office, and alongside the first female vice president in history, Kamala Harris, also the first black and Asian-American to hold the post.
Both arrive with the country devastated by a double illness: one caused by the coronavirus and the other caused by the authoritarian populism of the outgoing president. The former has already left 400,000 deaths - the last 100,000 in just five weeks - and a collapsed economy. The second, an assault on the Capitol on January 6, groups of armed white supremacists emboldened, and millions of Americans trapped in a web of lies that make them believe they live in a failed state. Seventy percent of Republican voters believe that the person who will be sworn in today is an illegitimate president who comes to the White House thanks to a gigantic electoral fraud. This is what Donald Trump has told them over and over again, whose delirium, accompanied by a media apparatus at his service, has dragged down a big part of the citizenry.
They do not believe the courts, which have dismissed Trump's claims continuously. They have not been convinced that their loyal Attorney General until a few weeks ago, William Barr, denied the existence of a massive fraud. They accept nothing except that Trump's defeat is explained by a conspiracy involving foreign countries, corrupt Republicans, the state sewers and the Democratic Party. Only the outgoing president tells them the truth. They speak of a possible civil war with disturbing lightness.
Uncertain political future
Trump is leaving but his political future remains uncertain. His leadership over the Republican Party and his chances of trying to repeat his success in four years depend largely on what happens in the Senate, which is responsible for politically judging Donald Trump on the "incitement to insurrection" charge passed last week in the House of Representatives. Yesterday, at the resumption of activity in the upper house, Republican leader Mitch McConnell made his strongest statement on the events of January 6 and the president's role in them. According to McConnell, "The mob was fed lies, [it was] provoked by the president and other powerful people".
If he votes to condemn Trump, the senator could have enough Republicans with him to close the access to the White House in 2024 to the current president. Meanwhile, in a further attempt to disassociate himself from the facts, Trump last night broadcast a farewell video in which he stated: "Political violence is an attack on what we want as Americans". Without mentioning Joe Biden by name, the Republican noted, "I pray for his success in keeping America safe and prosperous", and wished him "luck, a very important word". Far from closing the door on his political future, the still-president defended: "The movement we started is just the beginning".
Unlike his predecessors - including Barack Obama, who four years ago performed all the rituals of the transfer of power - Donald Trump will leave the White House first thing in the morning on his way to his Mar-A-Lago mansion in Florida without receiving his successor. He will be the first outgoing president to be absent from the inaugural ceremony since 1869. Before Biden assumes the presidency, Trump will say goodbye at a planned event at an air base near Washington, from which he will fly to Florida. Trump wants to have a military-like farewell, and the White House is having trouble finding enough guests to guarantee a massive send-off.
Numerous former administration officials have declined the invitation. After the assault on the 6th, many have sought to distance themselves from Trump. Even Vice President Mike Pence, who will be at Biden's inauguration, seems unlikely to be involved.
In this sense, the Democrat has insisted for weeks that as president he will be the president of all Americans. So it is hoped that after being sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts, his words will seek to promote unity. Apart from a thousand congressmen and guests, there will be no more witnesses to his words than the sea of flags that will fill an empty National Mall. Before leaving by plane for Washington, Joe Biden said goodbye to his state, Delaware. "I know these are dark times", he admitted, "but there's always light". Biden, who has won the presidency for the third time, was moved to remember Beau Biden, his late son, of whom he said "we should be presenting him as president of the United States".