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Donald Trump’s presidency comes to a juddering halt tomorrow – after four years of rabid tweets, dishonesty, wild tirades and hailing far-right extremists as “very fine people”.
He peddled his “Make America Great Again” mantra to the bitter end but leaves the US more divided than ever as Joe Biden prepares to be sworn in as the 46th Commander-in-Chief.
At least 25,000 National Guard soldiers will protect the Capitol in an unprecedented operation to make sure that Trump loyalists do not hijack the inauguration.
The extra military presence, more than double any previous ceremony’s precaution, follows the Trump-incited riots here two weeks ago.
Donald Trump leaves office tomorrow
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The National Guard Bureau chief today played down fears of violence after it emerged the FBI has vetted all military personnel at the event over concerns an attack could come from their ranks.
General Daniel Hokanson said: “It’s not a threat for me, I’m not concerned about that at all.
"Our National Guardsmen are vetted throughout the process.
Two members of the National Guard were removed from their scheduled event
“We don’t allow extremism of any type in our organisation.”
Despite his assurance, two National Guard soldiers were removed from their scheduled event duties over their ties to extremist groups.
Inquiries uncovered no plot against Mr Biden.
He will take the oath of office at about 5pm GMT – but his predecessor is due to flee Washington hours before the inauguration even starts.
Mr Trump is still furious about his election defeat and baselessly claims the presidency was “stolen” from him in a rigged ballot.
After the Capitol riots, in which five people died, he announced that he would not be attending the ceremony – the first outgoing leader not to participate in 152 years.
The US Capitol Building is being prepared for the inaugural ceremonies
However, to massage his wounded ego, he will have a final taste of presidential pomp by departing for his Florida home on Air Force One.
He is expected to fly out early in the morning and arrive at his Palm Beach resort by the time Mr Biden is being sworn in.
Sources say Mr Trump was adamant that he wanted to leave Washington as the President and hated the thought of having to ask his successor to let him use the aircraft.
His departure from the White House South Lawn aboard helicopter Marine One will most likely be seen by Mr Biden, as incoming Presidents spend inauguration eve at a residence across the road.
Mr Trump will then be afforded a military-style send-off at Joint Base Andrews and it is expected a crowd of supporters will wave him goodbye.
It is not known if he will follow tradition by leaving a letter for Mr Biden in the Resolute Desk at the Oval Office. Sources say it is unlikely.
His fury is reported to have been heightened by seeing that Mr Biden has attracted a star-studded line-up to his inauguration – a sharp contrast to his own four years ago.
The former Apprentice star failed to lure any big names, while the incoming leader has confirmed Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Tom Hanks among his attendees.
Joe Biden will take office tomorrow
All have agreed to take part, despite the Covid pandemic still sweeping the US.
Today Mr Trump’s ex-allies continued to distance themselves from him.
Former US Attorney General Bill Barr said he helped to fuel the Capitol invasion through his allegations of election fraud and claims the presidency was stolen from him.
Mr Barr, in his first TV interview since resigning last month, was asked if the Trump claims about the election’s legitimacy may have been a factor.
He responded: “I think that was the thing that precipitated the riots.”
Mr Barr went on: “It’s always important to remember most people are exercising their First Amendment rights [free speech].
“But there is a substantial group which obviously went far beyond that, broke into the Capitol and tried to interfere with the proceedings. That’s unacceptable.”
The swipe at his ex-boss came after it emerged he resigned as Attorney General on December 23 having told him his voter fraud claims were “bulls***” and the legal team he was assembling was “clownish”.
Mr Biden is expected to waste no time in undoing many Trump policies in order to “restore America’s place in the world”.
He is poised to rejoin the Paris Agreement on the climate crisis and rescind the travel ban on Muslims immediately after his inauguration.
It is also claimed he is keen to patch things up with Britain and “knows how essential the Special Relationship is”.