On Wednesday, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, and in the afternoon officially began the process of rolling back or undoing a slate of Donald Trump’s policies and directives. But at his private Florida club Mar-a-Lago, the former president was already plotting a possible return to Washington, D.C., and calling around to close allies in part to ask if members of his own party were trying to screw him out of a future comeback.
Once ensconced in his new home base, the twice-impeached former commander in chief began making phone calls to ask questions about a potential Senate impeachment trial and if some Republican lawmakers will vote to bar him from ever again holding the office of the presidency, according to two people with knowledge of the calls. He also inquired about what lawyers would be good to place on a potential legal team to fight back in a Senate proceeding.
The Senate has still not received the article of impeachment that passed a week ago in the House, so no date for a trial has been set, but a trial would determine whether the president is guilty of, per the article of impeachment, “willfully [making] statements to the crowd that encouraged and foreseeably resulted in lawless action at the Capitol” on Jan. 6.
Sen. Lindsey Graham also told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that he’d just gotten off the phone with the now-former president.
In his final two days in office, Trump had assured confidants that he was still weighing making another run for the White House, provided he isn’t barred from doing so, according to two individuals close to Trump. “They still love me,” he said behind closed doors, referring to Republican voters, on Tuesday, one of the sources recounted.
But as the sun began setting on Inauguration Day 2021, even some of Trump’s former top lieutenants and administration officials had no desire to express any nostalgia for the presidency that had just ended, nor did they want a Trumpist revival in 2024.
Asked to reflect on the past four years and what he thought of the Trump era now that it’s over, Dan Coats, the former director of national intelligence under Trump, would only say, “I’m not going to delve back into all that [but] I’m looking to the future and hoping things will improve as we get through the virus and we got a new administration. We’ll see what happens.”
As Air Force One coasted to Florida, Trump thanked staff and other pro-Trump passengers for what they’d done for him, smiling and posing for some photos and selfies. But while the former president attempted to put on a happy face for the cameras and for his adoring fans, he still seemed to his former and current advisers like a depressed or at least slightly broken man.
And although Trump kept an eye on cable news inaugural coverage on the presidential plane’s TVs, according to two people familiar with the matter, he landed before Biden was officially sworn in.
“I thought he looked a little sad. It was a very emotional morning, for sure. People were sad to see the president leave. These were his true supporters,” said Stephen Moore, an informal economic adviser to Trump who attended his farewell ceremony on Wednesday morning. “[But] I was glad to be there this morning to see the president off.” Moore said he still believes that Trumpism is “going to be an important part of the Republican message for years to come.”
Still, the day prior to the 45th U.S. president’s departure from Washington power, Trump let it be known to aides and close associates that he still had no intention of taking the high road. Behind closed doors on Tuesday, Trump predicted that Biden’s inauguration festivities would be “boring,” and joked that he wasn’t sure his Democratic successor would even be able to get through his inaugural speech without fumbling his words, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
As the rollback on Trump’s policies began, some of his top policy advisers showed signs of insecurity about the preservation of their agenda. “Today, [President Biden] pledged to be a president for all Americans. It’s unclear how all Americans are served by opening travel from terror hot spots, proposing a giant amnesty, or halting the installation of security barriers along the Southwest border,” Stephen Miller, formerly President Trump’s senior policy adviser and architect of much of his draconian immigration regime, posted to Twitter on Wednesday afternoon.
Elsewhere, the preservation of Trump’s legacy did not appear to be off to a good start, at least as far as Trump and his loyalists would be concerned. The biography webpage for the new and official Trump presidential library released on Wednesday, said in part, “In 2021 President Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives for having incited an insurrection against the government of the United States.”