US President-elect Joe Biden says it's "a good thing" that Donald Trump has chosen to skip his inauguration on January 20.
Trump announced this morning he wouldn't attend the ceremony, refusing to fulfill the outgoing president's traditional role in the peaceful transition of power and undercutting his own message just one day earlier on the need for "national healing and unity".
Trump, who has not appeared in public since a violent mob of his supporters besieged the Capitol on Thursday, will be the first incumbent president since Andrew Johnson not to attend his successor's inauguration.
Biden said he was just fine with that, calling it "one of the few things we have ever agreed on".
"It's a good thing him not showing up," he added, calling the President an "embarrassment" to the nation and unworthy of the office.
Traditionally, the incoming and outgoing Presidents ride to the US Capitol together on Inauguration Day for the ceremony, a visible manifestation of the smooth change of leadership.
Biden will become President at noon on January 20 regardless of Trump's plans. But Trump's absence represents one final act of defiance of the norms and traditions of Washington that he has flouted for four years.
Historian Douglas Brinkley said that although attending the inauguration "would be a wonderful olive branch to the country", he wasn't surprised by the decision.
"Donald Trump doesn't want to be in Washington as the second-fiddle loser standing on stage with Joe Biden," he said.
While Trump stays away, former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will witness the rite of democracy. The only other living president, 96-year-old Jimmy Carter, who has spent the pandemic largely at home in Georgia, will not attend but has extended "best wishes" to Biden.
Trump's tweet that he would boycott the inauguration came as he holed up in the White House with a dwindling coterie of aides and as momentum grew on Capitol Hill to subject him to impeachment for a second time.
"To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th," Trump said.
The tweet may have been his last. Twitter announced today that it had permanently suspended Trump from its platform, citing the "risk of further incitement of violence".
Trump said the company was trying to "silence" him and said he was "negotiating" with other social media platforms while looking at "the possibilities of building out our own platform".
Trump's decision not to attend the inauguration was not a surprise: for more than two months, he has falsely claimed he won re-election and advanced baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, even though his own administration has said the election was fairly run.
Senator Rick Scott, a Florida Republican, urged Trump to reconsider.
"He is, of course, not constitutionally required to attend and I can imagine losing an election is very hard, but I believe he should attend," Scott said. The senator called the inauguration "an important tradition that demonstrates the peaceful transfer of power to our people and to the world".
Vice-President Mike Pence, who defied Trump on Thursday when he refused to intervene in the congressional process to certify Biden's win, was expected to attend the inauguration, according to one person close to him and one familiar with inauguration planning.
But Pence spokesman Devin O'Malley said today that the Vice-President and the Second Lady "have yet to make a decision regarding their attendance".
Biden said Pence was "welcome to come", and he'd be honoured to have him.
Thursday's violent insurgency erupted after Trump spoke at a "Stop the Steal" rally where he told his supporters the election had been stolen and urged them to fight. Since then, Trump has been increasingly isolated, abandoned by all but a few of his closest enablers.
He has watched the resignations of top aides, including two Cabinet secretaries and a long list of administration officials.
In addition to those who have resigned, senior staff, including longtime aide Hope Hicks, will begin departing as part of the usual "offboarding" process marking the end of an administration, leaving Trump with only a skeleton crew of aides in his final days in office.
There were fears about what a desperate President could do in his final days, including speculation Trump could incite more violence, make rash appointments, issue ill-conceived pardons — including for himself and his family — or even trigger a destabilising international incident.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats laid plans to impeach Trump a second time, with articles of impeachment expected to be introduced early next week. A draft of the resolution charges Trump with abuse of power, saying he "willfully made statements that encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — imminent lawless action at the Capitol".
White House spokesman Judd Deere responded by saying, "A politically motivated impeachment against a President with 12 days remaining in his term will only serve to further divide our great country."
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was pursuing other measures to try to check Trump's powers.
She said she had spoken to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about preventing an "unhinged" Trump from initiating military actions or a nuclear strike.
She and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer have also called on Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to force Trump from office — though the urgency of that discussion among Cabinet members and staff had diminished by yesterday.
Staff-level discussions on the matter took place across multiple departments and even in parts of the White House, according to two people briefed on the talks who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations. But no member of the Cabinet has publicly expressed support for the move.
Pence has not said publicly whether he would support invoking the 25th Amendment, but Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said he did not think that was likely. "I'm just hearing he is basically not moving in that direction," he said, citing "my Senate channels".