FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2020, file photo President Donald Trump stands on the field before the 121st Army-Navy Football Game in Michie Stadium at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. Trump himself largely keeps to the Oval Office, still fighting the Election Day results and offering scant acknowledgement of the pain and suffering the nation is facing in the darkest hours of the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

As end approaches, Trump gets doses of flattery, finality

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump’s administration is ending how it began, with over-the-top declarations of praise for the chief executive.

But now the flattery is mixed with a sense of finality as key people in the president’s orbit are beginning to turn the page and acknowledge his defeat. Trump himself keeps to the Oval Office, still fighting the Election Day results and offering scant acknowledgement of the death and suffering Americans are bearing in the darkest hours of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a week when the Electoral College made official President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, Trump remained out of sight, staying late in the Oval Office and working the phones and television remote in his private dining area just steps from the Resolute Desk.

While he made not one public appearance, some of those who have been his most influential allies and loyal defenders gave up the fight, letting the president down as gently as possible.

Attorney General William Barr offered his resignation last Monday after weeks of tension with Trump brought about an early exit from his post. Long seen as one of Trump’s most supportive Cabinet members, Barr in recent weeks and months had drawn Trump’s wrath for not supporting the president’s baseless claims of election fraud or for not publicly pursuing an investigation into Biden’s son Hunter.

But when Barr stepped aside, he did so with flowery language reminiscent of the compliments that were tossed as verbal bouquets at Trump during early Cabinet meetings.

“Your record is all the more historic because you accomplished it in the face of relentless, implacable resistance,” Barr wrote in his resignation letter. Trump promptly tweeted it out, adding his own words of praise for the attorney general.

In the six weeks since his defeat by Biden, Trump has been increasingly disengaged from his job. The virus has killed more than 300,000 Americans and is now claiming more than 3,000 lives a day, but the president has offered barely a word about the deaths or the development of the vaccine that could bring an end to the pandemic.

At the same time, he has relentlessly tweeted conspiracy theories and false claims about the election, incorrectly insisting it was stolen from him while taking steps to undermine the Biden administration before it begins. Most Republicans went along, refusing to push Trump to stop or work with the president-elect.

Many in the GOP took their cues from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who refused to stand up to Trump, instead making the calculation that an outraged Republican base — and an angry president — could help produce victories in a pair of January runoff races in Georgia that will dictate control of the Senate. But this past week, even McConnell, R-Ky., bent to reality, declaring that the Electoral College “had spoken” and that Biden was the victor.

McConnell’s acknowledgement that Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris had won came only after a long public recap of Trump’s accomplishments on the Senate floor. McConnell spoke about Trump for nine minutes, declaring that “many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result.” He discussed Biden for one minute.

Some more of Trump’s fiercest allies also appeared to give credence, albeit briefly, to the electoral result. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a cable television appearance that Trump was in strong position for a possible 2024 campaign — a roundabout acknowledgement that he won’t be president come next year.

Others close to Trump also marked the looming end. His daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump began tweeted photos of moments throughout the term. His son Eric Trump and his family posed for photos just outside the Oval Office. West Wing staffers put up photos on Instagram of White House Christmas parties, and most of those pictured weren’t wearing masks.

Vice-President Mike Pence continued his role as Trump’s biggest hype man, even as the cheerleading came with a whiff of nostalgia. Pence in a ceremony Friday marked the first anniversary of the U.S. Space Force, which he framed as a major part of Trump’s legacy.

But with Trump largely in hiding, it fell to Pence to make a public show of meeting with those distributing the vaccine. And on Friday, he was the one who rolled up his sleeves and took a public shot in the arm as part of a campaign to convince Americans the vaccine is safe.

Trump has been happy to bask in praise throughout his presidency. His Cabinet meetings at times resembled “Dear Leader” sessions in authoritarian nations where officials gush compliments for the man in charge.

The tone was set at the president’s first Cabinet meeting, in June 2017, when the only subject for debate appeared to whether Trump was a great president or the greatest. With the media invited to watch, Trump extolled the achievements of his young administration, asserting that he had accomplished more than any president in his first six months — with “few exceptions,” like President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Pence that day declared his job was “the greatest privilege of my life.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he was “thrilled,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry gave his “hats off” to Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross offered thanks “for the opportunity” to work for the president.

Perhaps the strongest words came from chief of staff Reince Priebus: “On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda.”

On Wednesday, Trump convened his 25th and perhaps final Cabinet meeting. Much had changed.

Several top officials were not there, including Barr, whose resignation was pending; acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who had tested positive for COVID-19; and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was quarantining because he had been exposed to someone with the virus.

Whether there was effusive praise of Trump remains unknown.

The president did not let the media in.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

ATB Economics released new vehicle sales stats for November. (Contributed by ATB Economics)
2020 will be remembered as tough year for new car and truck dealers in Alberta

ATB Economics releases new vehicle sales stats for November

Red Deer city council gave initial approval for more mixed-use developments in Riverside Light Industrial Park. (File photo by Advocate staff)
More industrial landowners in Red Deer are pursuing mixed-use zoning

A third of Riverside Light could become a commercial/industrial district

Central Alberta man facing second-degree murder in connection with December death.
Advocate file photo
Central Alberta man facing second-degree murder in connection with December death

Maskwacis RCMP said female found dead in Ermineskin Cree Nation residence last December

Red Deer College has been working towards obtaining university status for a couple of years. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer College’s university status back in question

Red Deer College should be worried that its university dreams could be… Continue reading

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Montreal Canadiens down Edmonton Oilers 3-1, sweep series

Montreal Canadiens down Edmonton Oilers 3-1, sweep series

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) loses the basketball as he tries to drive around Dallas Mavericks center Willie Cauley-Stein (33) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris O'Meara
Lowry leads the way as Raptors down the Mavericks for their third straight win

Lowry leads the way as Raptors down the Mavericks for their third straight win

Johnny Gaudreau’s goal and assist paces Flames to 5-2 victory over Canucks

Johnny Gaudreau’s goal and assist paces Flames to 5-2 victory over Canucks

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on Dec. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Tory MP Sloan accuses party of hypocrisy over efforts to have him expelled

Tory MP Sloan accuses party of hypocrisy over efforts to have him expelled

FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019 file photo Britain's Andy Murray reacts during a press conference following his first round loss to Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia. Former world number one Murray's participation at the upcoming Australian Open is in doubt after the Briton tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
Australian Open arrivals hit by 3 COVID-19 positive tests

Australian Open arrivals hit by 3 COVID-19 positive tests

Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner (16) scores on an empty net and takes a hit from Winnipeg Jets defenceman Neal Pionk (4) during third period of action in Toronto on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto Maple Leafs ride dominant second period to down Winnipeg Jets 3-1

Toronto Maple Leafs ride dominant second period to down Winnipeg Jets 3-1

Roman Sadovsky wins the Challenge, his only event of the figure skating season

Roman Sadovsky wins the Challenge, his only event of the figure skating season

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, speaks with International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel during their meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Nikolai Petrov/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)
IIHF pulls hockey worlds from Belarus, seeks new host

IIHF pulls hockey worlds from Belarus, seeks new host

Most Read