WASHINGTON – Former President Donald Trump’s exit from office reflected much of his tenure: It was unprecedented.
Typically, sitting presidents do symbolic things such as hosting their successors at the White House, attending the Inauguration of the incoming president, and much more, to signify a peaceful transfer of power.
However, as Trump railed and erroneously insisted until nearly the last day that the election was fraudulent and stolen from him, he snubbed many of these traditions.
Here are the number of traditions Trump broke leading into President Joe Biden’s first day, and one he surprisingly kept.
Tradition he kept
Leaving a letter for predecessor
Trump eschewed most of the traditional roles a president fills for the inauguration of his successor, except one: He left a letter for Biden.
Presidents usually leave a note of congratulations and support behind in the Oval Office, but some had questioned whether Trump would do so given his hesitancy to even acknowledge Biden’s victory.
Later Wednesday, Biden confirmed he received the letter, continuing a cordial tradition that goes back to at least the 1980s, telling reporters from the Oval Office that the note was “very generous.”
“The president wrote a very generous letter,” Biden said. “Because it was private, I won’t talk about it until I talk to him. But it was generous.”
In the past, presidents have used the notes to underscore the significance of the job and the rewards, hardships and loneliness that sometimes comes with it. Those notes have also generally put aside the partisanship of the election and offered support for a successful presidency.
Traditions that were broken
Inviting election victor to White House
Typically, sitting presidents invite their predecessors to the White House, but Trump did not invite Biden to the White House for a meeting after Biden was declared the winner of November’s presidential election.
Trump did not acknowledge he lost the election until Jan. 7, as he faced mounting criticism for his handling of the violence that erupted a day earlier at the Capitol.
The tradition is aimed at highlighting the peaceful transfer of power and involve discussions of the hand-off of the White House.
President Barack Obama met with then President-elect Trump just two days after the election. President George W. Bush showed Obama the Oval Office less than a week after Election Day 2008.
In pledging a smooth transition, Obama told Trump then “we now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed — because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.”
The meetings usually involve the sitting president giving their successor pieces of advice and what the biggest issues they face will be. Obama famously warned Trump against hiring Michael Flynn as national security adviser because of his ties to Russian officials.
Tea-and-tour tradition between first ladies
Outgoing first lady Melania Trump did not carry out one last first-lady duty by inviting first lady Jill Biden to tea and a tour of the White House family quarters.
She failed to do so before she and Trump left for Florida, making the snub the first deliberate break in the 100-year-old first ladies’ transfer-of-power tradition in decades.
“In modern history, there has always been an invitation, this goes back to at least Bess Truman and Mamie Eisenhower (in 1952),” says Kate Andersen Brower, author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies.”
In an interview Tuesday with former first daughter Jenna Bush Hager on the “Today” show, Biden’s daughter, Ashley Biden, shrugged at the impact.
“No, I don’t think they’re doing the traditional protocol, which is unfortunate,” she said. “But I think we’re all OK with it.”
Ride from White House to Capitol, pre-inauguration ceremony and meeting
The departing president traditionally welcomes the incoming president on the steps of the North Portico, and then they typically ride down Pennsylvania Avenue together to the Capitol and inauguration.
Before Trump’s 2017 presidential swearing-in, he and Melania met the Obamas at the White House for a pre-inauguration coffee ceremony.
However, Trump broke these traditions this year, as he did not attend the inauguration.
Instead of the Trumps, the Bidens were likely greeted by White House chief usher Timothy Harleth. The Biden administration later fired Harleth, who was installed by Trump.
Attending the inauguration of predecessor
By skipping Biden’s inauguration, Trump broke with 152 years of White House tradition.
Trump became the first outgoing president to refuse to attend the inauguration of his successor since 1869, when President Andrew Johnson stayed in the White House as Ulysses S. Grant was sworn in as the 18th president.
In lieu of attending the inauguration, Trump instead addressed supporters at an early farewell ceremony at Joint Base Andrews that featured a 21-gun salute and a military band playing “Hail to the Chief.”
Trump then flew to Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach club in Florida. He was there when the clock struck noon, ending a contentious presidential term that closed with days of seclusion after the riot at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6.
Contributing: David Jackson, John Fritze, Michael Collins Sara M Moniuszko, Maria Puente, USA TODAY
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