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For four years, President Trump bullied his rivals and intimidated his enemies. He commanded the world stage and commandeered social media, spreading torrents of misinformation and falsehoods. From Israel to Iowa, Mr. Trump was inescapable — and seemingly unstoppable.
Since the attack on the U.S. Capitol, his power has been rapidly disappearing, evaporating in a cloud of recriminations and condemnation.
In the final days of his presidency, Mr. Trump has been snubbed by foreign allies and banned from social media. Some members of his cabinet fled, and some in his own party helped deal the final blow of a second impeachment. High-profile friends, like the New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, are declining national honors to avoid being in his presence. His hometown wants little to do with him.
Mr. Trump arrived in Washington as an insurgent, an unlikely politician who defied the odds to win the White House. He departs isolated and diminished, leaving behind a Capitol transformed into a war zone, a frayed body politic and a fractured Republican Party that has been ousted from power.
Typically, the post-presidential period has offered redemption for even our most polarizing leaders. Out of the political fray, former presidents find new hobbies and missions, often growing in national esteem in the process. Bill Clinton built a global philanthropic empire. George W. Bush discovered his “inner Rembrandt.” And Barack Obama wakeboarded and wrote.
But America has never seen a true pariah post-presidency.
Marooned in the White House, Mr. Trump is facing the lowest job approval of his time in office, polling shows, and increasingly negative reviews for his post-election behavior. He plans to leave Washington hours before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in, making him the first president since Andrew Johnson in 1869 to skip the inauguration of his successor. (Mr. Johnson was also impeached.)
Instead, he’ll flee to Mar-a-Lago, going full Florida man in a state known to attract those seeking a restart — or an escape.
But Mr. Trump will be hard-pressed to evade the considerable financial challenges facing his resorts and hotels, difficulties exacerbated by a pandemic that devastated the hospitality industry and unlikely to be helped by his fallen personal brand. Adding to his economic stress is the more than $300 million in debt coming due in the next few years that he has personally guaranteed.
His favorite sport has also stepped away, with the P.G.A. Tournament relocating from Mr. Trump’s New Jersey golf club to protect its “brand and reputation,” as P.G.A. of America’s chief executive, Seth Waugh, put it. Mr. Trump was “gutted” by the decision, according to a person close to the White House, as he had worked personally for years to push the tournament executives to hold events at his courses.
Even if Mr. Trump wants to adopt a lower-profile — a decision that’s hard to imagine the media-loving president making — it will be difficult for him to avoid politics.
In the coming weeks, Mr. Trump faces a Senate impeachment trial and the likelihood of continued Democratic-led investigations into his business dealings, presidential decisions and the inner workings of his government. A vocal wing of the party is pushing for prosecutions and a raft of legal challenges against Mr. Trump, his family and his allies.
Though he won more voters than any other Republican presidential candidate in history and maintains the support of a vast majority of G.O.P. voters, a small but growing segment of his party believes the president has become too toxic even for those who elected him.
“I do not think a party centered on President Trump is viable,” said David Asp, a former member of the Republican National Committee from Minnesota. “The party should move away from Trump as quickly as possible, drop the conspiracy theorists and advance a vision for the party focused on the national interest.”
Perhaps the closest historical analogy to the kind of post-presidency that lies ahead for Mr. Trump is that of President Richard Nixon, who left Washington in disgrace to avoid being impeached for his role in the Watergate break-in. (Mr. Trump, for his part, does not care for the comparison, exploding at aides who bring up the ex-president’s name, according to CNN.)
But Mr. Nixon, say those who’ve studied his post-presidential period, felt remorse for his actions, expressing regret that paved the way for the former president to rebuild his reputation as a best-selling author, foreign policy expert and elder statesman.
“Nixon actually felt a sense of responsibility for what had happened,” said Kasey Pipes, the author of a book about Mr. Nixon’s post-presidency. “He felt bad about it and publicly and privately would tell people: ‘I let you down. I let the country down.’”
When Mr. Nixon died in 1994, then-President Bill Clinton praised his “wise counsel,” accomplishments and “devotion to duty,” delivering an eulogy that urged Americans to judge the former president on the “totality” of his life.
“Nixon had come full circle and people had accepted him again,” Mr. Pipes said. “It’s going to be much more difficult for Trump to achieve that level of public acceptance and the main reason is that we haven’t seen any public accountability from him whatsoever.”
He added, “And if we know anything about Trump, I don’t think we will.”
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A guide to Joe Biden’s inauguration
Inaugurations are like snowflakes: Everyone is unique, shaped by the personality and priorities of the incoming president. It’s safe to say that this inauguration will be unlike any other, marked by heightened security concerns and a still-raging pandemic.
Here are what you need to know about Inauguration Day:
Mr. Trump will not attend. The president plans to depart Washington the morning of Inauguration Day, skipping the traditional military helicopter departure by the former president. He has no plans to invite Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, to the White House, as is customary. Instead, Mr. Trump will hold his own farewell event at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, where Air Force One is kept.
Nor will much of an audience. Most of the National Mall will be closed to the general public, blocking access to the area where hundreds of thousands of Americans typically gather to watch the swearing-in ceremony. Local and federal officials have established a downtown security zone and called in more than 20,000 National Guard troops. The Capitol will also be closed, as will a number of metro stations and bridges. Airbnb has canceled and blocked all bookings in the city for the days leading up to the event.
Mr. Biden will take the oath outside. The incoming president and his aides are determined that Mr. Biden take the oath and deliver an address outside the West Front of the Capitol, preserving an iconic tableau that has often set the tone for a new presidency. Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem and Jennifer Lopez will perform. Mr. Biden will be sworn in by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. sometime before noon. Instead of a traditional parade before cheering spectators along Pennsylvania Avenue as the new president, vice president and their families make their way to the White House, there will be an official escort with representatives from every branch of the military for one city block.
But most of the festivities will be virtual. There are plans for a televised “virtual parade across America” and a 90-minute prime-time television event that will feature Justin Timberlake and Jon Bon Jovi, and will be hosted by the actor Tom Hanks.
Want to watch all of the festivities? We’ll be livestreaming the inaugural events on The Times’s website.
By the numbers: 10
… That’s the number of House Republicans who, along with every House Democrat, voted to impeach Mr. Trump on Wednesday, formally charging him with inciting violence against the government of the United States.
New York Times Audio
A breakaway G.O.P. congressman and a social media-savvy white nationalist
Representative Peter Meijer, a freshman congressman from Michigan, was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump. He spoke to “The Daily” about his decision to break from the rest of his party.
Separately, listen to our narrated story (also available on Audm) from The Times’s media columnist, Ben Smith, about Anthime Joseph Gionet, who went from making silly Vines at BuzzFeed in 2015 to livestreaming from inside the trashed office of a senator in 2021.
“You can’t wake up in the morning and say, tomorrow I am moving a giraffe.”
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