Outgoing US President Donald Trump joins a select club of American Presidents who will sit out their successors inauguration but within that cohort, he will be alone in his attempt to incite a violent mob to storm the US Capitol and the only American President ever to be impeached twice.
Back in 1801, John Adams boarded a stagecoach and rode out of Washington, D.C. hours before Thomas Jefferson was to be sworn in as the country’s third president. Adams did not attend.
In 1829, after a bitterly fought election rife with personal insults, John Quincy Adams boycotted Andrew Jackson’s swearing in ceremony.
When Jackson’s wife died before the inauguration, the future president blamed his opponent for sparking slander-induced stress.
In 1869, Johnson absented himself from the inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant and stayed back in the White House signing last minute legislation. Grant, on his part, refused to ride with Johnson from the White House to the Capitol for the ceremony.
Richard Nixon took off in a helicopter from the lawns of the White House before Gerald Ford’s swearing-in. The circumstances around the event were rather muted, and did not have the pomp and circumstance that is a signature of Inauguration Day. Awash in the Watergate scandal, Nixon handed in his resignation letter and Ford took his oath of office in the White House.
There is broad consensus among presidential historians that a President showing up on Inauguration Day is primarily about the optics, there’s nothing in the Constitution that mandates a president check off this box.
Trump’s absence does not land as any surprise, considering that he has refused to accept the election results and incited an entire army of his supporters to “stop the steal” by attacking the Capitol and trying to stop the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
Biden said he was happy to have Trump stay away.
When Vice President-elect Kamala Harris gets those questions, she usually brushes it aside with a smirk or a laugh. “Don’t worry, Mr. President. I’ll see you at your trial,” Harris jabbed more than a year ago to a snarky Trump tweet, when the second impeachment wasn’t anywhere on the horizon.