Inauguration organizers craft plans if Trump skips proceedings


Two weeks before the inauguration, it’s an open question whether President Trump will follow historical precedent and attend President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s swearing-in ceremony.

The White House isn’t saying and organizers planning the inauguration are crafting contingency plans if Mr. Trump skips the proceedings.

“Anonymous sources who claim to know what the president is or is not considering have no idea,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said. “When President Trump has an announcement about his plans for Jan. 20 he will let you know.”

Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush will be attending, a spokesman for the former president confirmed Tuesday.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, speculated Tuesday that Mr. Trump might call on his supporters to descend on Washington on Jan. 20 to rain on Mr. Biden’s modified parade.

“What if he shows up? What if he doesn’t show up?” the South Carolina Democrat, who chairs Mr. Biden’s inaugural committee, said on CNN. “We have not finalized those plans, but I do know that we are talking about a lot of ‘what ifs.’”

At a rally Monday in Georgia, Mr. Trump appeared to be operating on the presumption that he will be in attendance for his second inaugural on Jan. 20.

“When you win in a landslide and they steal it and it’s rigged, it’s not acceptable,” the president said. “They’re not taking this White House. We’re going to fight like hell.”

Mr. Trump is cheering on an effort from congressional Republicans to object to the counting of the Electoral College votes in Congress on Wednesday.

There are signs that he is planning to skip the inauguration for a golf holiday at his Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland.

The nearby Prestwick airport has been told to expect the arrival of a U.S. military Boeing 757 aircraft on Jan. 19, according to a report in the Sunday Post.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, said Mr. Trump should steer clear of Trump Turnberry if that’s what he’s planning, citing the country’s coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

“Coming in to play golf is not what I would consider to be an essential purpose,” she said.

Mr. and Mrs. Bush are planning to attend the Jan. 20 proceedings.

“I believe this will be the eighth inauguration they’ve had the privilege of attending – President Trump’s being the most recent — and witnessing the peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of our democracy that never gets old,” said Freddy Ford, Mr. Bush’s chief of staff.

A spokeswoman for the congressional committee overseeing the inauguration said the panel’s planning includes preparations for an honorary departure ceremony, which is a tradition when there is a change in administrations.

Regardless of the president’s schedule, organizers are already modifying the Jan. 20 proceedings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Biden will still be sworn in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol and receive a presidential escort to the White House.

In light of the public-health crisis, however, there will be a televised “virtual parade” across America in lieu of more crowded festivities that typically take place in Washington.

“There are many grand traditions to the inaugural and we plan to honor them by highlighting more of our nation’s people than ever before while keeping everyone safe,” said Tony Allen, CEO of Mr. Biden’s inaugural committee.

Former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter are steering clear, marking the first time the couple, both in their 90s, will have missed the ceremony since Mr. Carter was sworn into office in 1977.

A spokeswoman at the Carter Center said the Carters pass along their “best wishes” to Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Sen. Kamala D. Harris.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a top Trump ally, said the president should probably attend the inauguration.

“If he does not go, I think he has to explain why,” Mr. Gingrich told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “I think Trump’s got to decide what best communicates his message. I think his instinct is not to go, because he’s convinced the election was stolen.”

Four years ago, Mr. Trump escorted former President Barack Obama to an awaiting helicopter prepared to whisk Mr. Obama away to private life.

Though rare, it’s not unprecedented for presidents to intentionally and actively skip their successor’s inauguration.

John Adams did so in 1801, as did his son John Quincy Adams in 1829, and Andrew Johnson in 1869.

The elections that preceded all three inaugurations were bitterly contested. In John Adams’ case, the U.S. House ended up deciding the election for Thomas Jefferson after a tie between Jefferson and Aaron Burr.

χ This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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