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Trump video extends ‘best wishes’ to new administration

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump trumpeted his administration’s accomplishments and wished his successor luck in a farewell video as he spent his final full day in office preparing to issue a flurry of pardons in a near-deserted White House, surrounded by an extraordinary security presence outside.

“This week we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous,” Trump said in the video “farewell address,” released by the White House less than 24 hours before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. “We extend our best wishes. And we also want them to have luck — a very important word.”

Trump, who spent months trying to delegitimize Biden’s win with allegations of mass voter fraud, repeatedly referenced the “next administration” but did not utter Biden’s name. Many of Trump’s supporters continue to believe the election was stolen from him, even though a long list of judges, Republican state officials and even Trump’s own government have said there is no evidence to support the claim.

Trump also was expected to spend his final hours granting clemency to as many as 100 people, according to two people briefed on the plans. The list of pardons and commutations is expected to include names unfamiliar to the American public — regular people who have spent years languishing in prison — as well as politically connected friends and allies like those he’s pardoned in the past.

Trump in his address tried to cast his presidency as a triumph for everyday people as he highlighted what he sees as his top achievements, including efforts to normalize relations in the Middle East, the development of coronavirus vaccinations and the creation of a new Space Force. And he tried to defend the endless controversies that have consumed the last four years as justified.

“As President, my top priority, my constant concern, has always been the best interests of American workers and American families,” he said. “I did not seek the easiest course; by far, it was actually the most difficult. I did not seek the path that would get the least criticism. I took on the tough battles, the hardest fights, the most difficult choices because that’s what you elected me to do.”

Trump also made clear he has no plans of going quietly into the night, telling his supporters that, as he prepares “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. There’s never been anything like it.”

Trump has remained largely out of sight since his supporters stormed the Capitol building Jan. 6, trying to halt the peaceful transfer of power. Aides had urged him to spend his final days in office participating in a series of legacy-burnishing events. But Trump, who remains consumed over his election loss, largely refused. He has not been seen in public since last week, when he traveled to Texas for one last photo opportunity at the border wall.

Trump was set to leave Washington early this morning after a grand farewell event at nearby Joint Base Andrews. Once there, he was to board Air Force One for a final time, flying to Florida and becoming the first outgoing president in more than a century to skip the inauguration of his successor.

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