Has an outgoing president ever skipped the inauguration?

President Trump confirmed Friday that he won’t attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, making him the fourth outgoing president to skip the formal event.

The news was little surprise — even though an incumbent president hasn’t skipped their successor’s celebration since 1869.

Biden will be the 46th president. Outgoing presidents attended most inaugurations, beginning with George Washington in 1797.

Defeated single-term presidents including Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were among those who attended the hand-offs.

Eight presidents died in office, three skipped formal inaugurations and Richard Nixon departed the White House after he resigned and before successor Gerald Ford was sworn in during a White House East Room event that fell far short of usual pageantry.

Trump refused to accept Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win and claimed in unsuccessful lawsuits that he was cheated by voter fraud. On Wednesday, Trump told thousands of supporters in a speech near the White House that “we will never concede” before encouraging them to march on the Capitol to help overturn the election results.

Four of Trump’s supporters died and US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick was fatally bludgeoned during the mayhem, which ultimately failed to prevent certification of Biden’s victory.

George W. Bush and Laura Bush with Barack Obama and Michelle Obama ahead of Obama's inauguration.
(From right) Laura Bush and George W. Bush with Barack Obama and Michelle Obama ahead of Obama’s inauguration

Trump softened his tone Thursday night, saying in a video that “my focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”

The president confirmed he won’t attend the inauguration in a tweet, writing, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

Vice President Mike Pence, however, is expected to attend, according to reports.

A president most recently skipped an inauguration in the chaotic aftermath of the Civil War, when President Andrew Johnson declined to attend.

Johnson, a Southern Democrat from Tennessee, became president in 1865 after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Republicans impeached him over his management of Reconstruction. His reputation in tatters, Democrats nominated Horatio Seymour instead to challenge Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant, who won.

Johnson “was deeply disappointed over the victory of the Republican, Ulysses S. Grant,” according to a Senate history.

The Adams family’s motives were murkier.

John Adams, the second president, who allowed for the first peaceful transition following electoral defeat, “departed from the White House at 4 the morning of his successor’s inauguration,” according to the White House Historical Association. He had been defeated by Thomas Jefferson.

“While Adams never recorded why he left, he may have wanted to avoid provoking violence between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, as this was the first time the presidency was transferred to an opposing party. He was also never formally invited by Jefferson and perhaps didn’t want to impose.”

The historical association says Adams’ son President John Quincy Adams, who was defeated by Trump’s rabble-rousing historical hero Andrew Jackson, had a frosty relationship with his successor.

“President-elect Andrew Jackson arrived in Washington on February 11, 1829. He did not call on President Adams, nor did Adams invite Jackson to the White House,” the association says.

“Later that month, President Adams moved to a mansion on Meridian Hill in Washington, D.C., and officially departed the White House on the evening of March 3, the day before the inauguration of President Jackson.”

All living former presidents attended Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017, with the exception of George H.W. Bush, due to health issues. President Barack Obama, Vice President Biden, President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, President Jimmy Carter, former Vice Presidents Dan Quayle and Dick Cheney, along with their wives, including Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, were all present.

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