Biden flies to Washington as Trump delivers farewell speech

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As US President-elect Joe Biden arrived in Washington ahead of his inauguration, departing president Donald Trump released a videoed speech on his last full day in office.

A screengrab from departing president Donald Trump's farewell address.

Departing president Donald Trump released a videoed speech on his last full day in office. Photo: Screengrab / YouTube / The White House

Biden became emotional during a brief farewell ceremony in Delaware before heading to Washington, choking back tears as he reflected on his long journey to the White House and remembered his son.

Biden thanked friends and family who had gathered to see him off at a National Guard center named after his son Beau – whose death from cancer in 2015 contributed to then-Vice President Biden’s decision not to seek the White House in 2016.

“When I die, Delaware will be written on my heart,” said Biden, his voice shaking with emotion.

“It’s deeply personal that our next journey to Washington starts here, a place that defines the very best of who we are as Americans,” he said.

“I know these are dark times, but there is always light. That’s what this state has taught me the most,” Biden said.

Biden, who served Delaware as a senator for more than three decades and had run for president unsuccessfully two times before winning in November, said his one regret was that Beau, who served as attorney general in Delaware, was not there.

“We should be introducing him as president,” Biden said, tears streaming down his face.

“Don’t tell me things can’t change. They can, and they do,” Biden said. “I’m truly honoured to be your next president and commander in chief.”

US President-Elect Joe Biden speaks in Delaware before departing for Washington, DC on 19 January.

US President-elect Joe Biden told an audience at a farewell ceremony in Delaware: “I know these are dark times, but there is always light.” Photo: AFP

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‘We did what we came here to do’ – Trump

On his final full day in office, departing president Donald Trump delivered a farewell speech from the White House.

Currently locked out of his personal social media accounts, Trump struck a conciliatory yet defiant tone in the video released via the government’s official social media accounts.

“We did what we came here to do – and so much more,” he said. “I took on the tough battles, the hardest fights, the most difficult choices – because that’s what you elected me to do.”

He warned that “the greatest danger” now facing the country was “a loss of confidence in our national greatness”.

The 45th president urged prayers for the new administration of President-elect Joe Biden but declined to acknowledge his Democratic successor by name.

“This week, we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous,” the Republican president said in the video remarks. “We extend our best wishes, and we also want them to have luck – a very important word.”

Trump has refused to offer a full concession to Biden. The outgoing president is not meeting with Biden before the Democrat’s inauguration and instead plans to fly to Florida, where he is expected to reside after his White House term.

In the recorded remarks Trump sought to highlight aspects of his presidency in which he took pride.

“We did what we came here to do, and so much more,” he said. “I took on the tough battles, the hardest fights, the most difficult choices because that’s what you elected me to do.”

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Trump noted Middle East peace deals his administration brokered and lauded his foreign policy agenda.

“We revitalised our alliances and rallied the nations of the world to stand up to China like never before,” he said. “I am especially proud to be the first president in decades who has started no new wars.”

The 45th president ran through actions taken by his administration – from “stand[ing] up to China like never before” to “a series of historic peace deals in the Middle East”.

He added: “I am especially proud to be the first president in decades who has started no new wars.”

Trump, who leaves amid deep divisions in the country, acknowledged the riots at the US Capitol on 6 January, which in the immediate aftermath he was slow to condemn.

“All Americans were horrified by the assault on our Capitol. Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated,” he said.

And the president, who former advisers predict has lost much of a political future after the riots, suggested his movement would go on.

“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,” Trump said.

“I go from this majestic place with a loyal and joyful heart and optimistic spirit, and a supreme confidence that for our country and for our children, the best is yet to come.”

Biden holds memorial for Covid-19 victims

Biden on Tuesday led a national memorial observance on the eve of his inauguration to honour the 400,000 Americans who have died from Covid-19.

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The ceremony, spearheaded by Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris from the base of the Lincoln Memorial, marked the federal government’s first official nod to the staggering death toll from the pandemic.

“We must remember. It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation,” Biden said in brief remarks to kick off a tribute that was to include observances in cities across the country.

As darkness fell over the nation’s capital, 400 electric lamps lining the sides of the Reflecting Pool were illuminated to honour the 400,000 lives lost, followed by gospel singer Yolanda Adams’ performance of the song “Hallelujah,” then a moment of silence in memory of the Covid-19 dead.

“Though we may be physically separated, we the American people are united in spirit,” Harris said at the ceremony.

US President-elect Joe Biden leads a memorial ceremony for US coronavirus victims.

Photo: AFP

– Reuters / BBC

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