US inauguration: Donald Trump’s graceless exit from the White House is under way

US President Donald Trump is packing up his possessions in preparation to leave the White House — but his exit from America’s most famous residence is already proving to be one of the most ungracious in history.

The Trumps will make their exit early on Wednesday morning, when the outgoing president will become the first to boycott his successor’s inauguration since Democrat Andrew Johnson snubbed Republican Ulysses S Grant in 1869.

As photos showed staff removing framed mementos and a bronze bust of former president Abraham Lincoln over the past week, Trump was at work planning his leaving celebrations, which will take place at Joint Base Andrews before he and wife Melania take their final flight on Air Force One to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.

The Trump-owned resort will be the family’s home for the time being, as the former president deals with the consequences of the trail of destruction he has left behind, including a second impeachment and criminal investigations.

As soon as the couple have left, contractors will get to work on a deep clean of the White House and its grounds, removing any final items, vacuuming carpets and curtains, cleaning chandeliers, washing windows and sanitising surfaces, residence sources told US media.

New mattresses for the incoming first family are standard, a source told CNN, although the Bidens will share a bed while Trump slept in a room used as an office or den by previous presidents. However, furniture such as the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office and most of the artwork and china are government property and will remain on the premises.

Incoming president Joe Biden and wife Jill will not be greeted by the outgoing president and his spouse on the steps of the North Portico before riding together to the US Capitol in the tradition transfer-of-power ritual.

There will be no awkward exchange of the kind seen when the Obamas gritted their teeth in January 2017 to welcome the Trumps and smile through that notoriously excruciating gift-giving moment.

Donald and Melania have made no effort to invite the Bidens to their home, and the outgoing First Lady has not offered Jill Biden a tour or mentioned her in any recent statements.

However, Melania has been quietly working with Chief Usher Timothy Harleth to facilitate the Bidens’ move-in, according to The Washington Post. Harleth, a former employee at the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC, is likely to be replaced by someone more familiar to the new administration, CNN reported.

Some Trump officials have met with their successors. The President’s official White House photographer Shealah Craighead was seen by CNN giving a tour of the White House photo office to Biden’s incoming official photographer, Adam Schultz, and photo editor Chandler West.

On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence spoke with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in a conversation described as cordial, with Pence offering his congratulations and assistance, a person familiar with the matter told CNN.

Unlike her raging husband, people in touch with the outgoing First Lady said she was looking to the future and will not need to be dragged kicking and screaming out of Washington DC. “Melania is good,” the source told the Post.

She will now be focused on planning the design of the Trump presidential library as well as reigniting her “Be Best” initiative. Ivanka Trump is also reportedly interested in the library and has bought a new home in Florida.

The West Wing is currently looking deserted, with empty offices littered with papers and unopened letters after dozens of senior officials quit following the riots, the BBC reported.

Trucks removing the Trumps’ possessions have been monitored all the way to Mar-a-Lago, where they were seen on the driveway as movers unloaded boxes.

On Wednesday morning local time, Donald Trump will throw a dawn celebration at Joint Base Andrews before he and his wife take their final flight on Air Force One to Florida. The Pentagon has said no military celebration is planned, although the departing President reportedly wanted a 21-gun salute and red carpet.

The invite sent to people including Trump critic Anthony Scaramucci said attendees could bring five guests, which the former White House director of communications said suggested the outgoing commander-in-chief was “desperate to bulk up the guest list”.

While Trump attempts to depart with as much pomp and circumstance he can muster — and prays people turn up — much of America will be celebrating the inauguration of the incoming president. There are reported plans for protests from Trump supporters, but security is on high alert after their disastrous failure during the January 6 riots at the Capitol.

In the afternoon, the Bidens’ possessions will be moved into the White House as the new president takes part in a ceremonial wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery with former presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama.

When Biden enters his new home, it is uncertain even whether Trump will have left the traditional letter to his successor in the Oval Office. He is reportedly mulling over whether to do so, sources told CNN.

One former official in Trump’s White House said the neglect and disrespect of the outgoing first family was “abhorrent”.

But it’s likely that the Bidens, and many Americans, will simply be relieved that the transition period is over and a less volatile leader installed at the head of the world’s most powerful nation.

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