In his farewell address to the nation Tuesday, President Donald Trump attempted to highlight his administration’s successes amid the backdrop of an impeachment trial on a charge of inciting an insurrection, while also calling on Americans to “pray” for the new administration.
“This week, we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous,” Trump said, although he is not expected to attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
He added, “We did what we came here to do — and so much more,” referring to the administration’s conservative legislative achievements, criminal justice reform, stock market gains, economic benchmarks and record-setting judicial appointments.
“Above all, we have reasserted the sacred idea that in America, the government answers to the people,” he said.
Much of the achievements Trump touted, such as tax cuts and reforms, slashing regulations and withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, Biden has signaled he would reverse them.
The speech, which was filled with some falsehoods, marks a shift for a president whose bombastic rhetoric and unconventional approach to the office created numerous maelstroms in Washington and made him the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. And the first to be impeached twice.
He claimed to be the first president in decades to not start a war (former President Barrack Obama did not go to war during his time in office). He also claimed his agenda “was not about right or left, it wasn’t about Republican or Democrat,” despite his administration pushing far-right policies and issues.
Trump also touted the success of Operation Warp Speed, which produces Covid-19 vaccines in record time. Despite the record, the Trump administration has been heavily criticized for its distribution strategy for vaccines. As of Tuesday, from the more than 31 million vaccine doses distributed nationwide, just over 10 million people had received their first doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over 400,000 people in the U.S. have died from the virus.
The president thanked the first lady and his children, saying they “fill my world with light and with joy,” as well as vice president Mike Pence and his family. He also expressed gratitude to his cabinet and administration aides “who poured out their heart and soul to fight for America.”
Some Cabinet officials have already resigned, including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who both cited Trump’s role in egging on the rioters.
In the farewell address, Trump again spoke out against the Capitol riot after he was universally condemned — and later impeached — for inciting the mob.
“All Americans were horrified by the assault on our Capitol. Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans,” he said. “It can never be tolerated.”
Trump said the country “must always be a land of hope, of light, and of glory to all the world,” as he also touted the administration’s hardline immigration enforcement efforts and his long-promised border wall, which has fallen short of what Trump initially promised.
Part of Trump’s speech was also a thinly-veiled rebuke of his various social media accounts being banned or suspended after inflaming the mob that stormed the Capitol, which left several people dead, including a police officer. He called for unity and to “rise above the partisan rancor.”
“In America, we don’t insist on absolute conformity or enforce rigid orthodoxies and punitive speech codes — we just don’t do that,” he said. “America is not a timid nation of tame souls who need to be sheltered and protected from those with whom we disagree. That’s not who we are. It will never be who we are.”
As Trump faces a second impeachment trial in the Senate, where a conviction could bar him from holding public office in the future, he said in his speech that his “Make America Great Again” movement is “only just beginning.”
“Now, as I prepare 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,” he said.
Dartunorro Clark is a political reporter for NBC News.