Maggie Haberman for the NYT:
President Donald J. Trump left Washington aboard Air Force One for a final time on Wednesday, the iconic plane creeping along the runway so the liftoff was timed to the closing strains of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
In many ways, Mr. Trump’s last hours as president were a bookend to the kickoff of his presidential campaign in June 2015. As he did then, he tossed aside prepared remarks that aides had helped draft and spoke off the cuff, having them take down teleprompters they had set up. As he did then, he spent hours focused on the visual aspects of the scene where he would speak at the end of a calamitous final three months that capped a tumultuous term.
Before departing for Florida, Mr. Trump — defeated at the polls, twice impeached, silenced by social media platforms and facing an array of legal and financial problems — laid down a marker about his future, telling the roughly 300 supporters who greeted him on the windy tarmac, several holding American flags, that they had not seen the last of him.
“Goodbye. We love you. We will be back in some form,” Mr. Trump vowed, with the first lady, Melania Trump, by his side in sunglasses and a black outfit. He has yet to say what that form will take, but people who know him said he remained bitter that congressional Republicans had joined in rebuke of his speech at a Jan. 6 rally that incited his supporters to storm the Capitol….
Mr. Pence and the two Republican leaders in Congress skipped Mr. Trump’s departure and later attended Mr. Biden’s inaugural. Mr. Trump did not mention Mr. Biden, but for the first time he wished “great luck and great success” to the incoming administration. (A draft of Mr. Trump’s prepared remarks had included a space suggesting he acknowledge Mr. Biden, but were bracketed in case he did not, according to a person who saw them.)
He did find time to note his own vote total….
A large space was built for an audience that the White House had invited to see the president off. But for a man obsessed with crowd size, only about 300 people showed up, filling roughly a third of the standing area.
For several days, aides had tried to corral officials to come to the departure, and to bring guests. But several who remained working until the president’s final day in office said they were worn out and deeply angry over his behavior since Election Day, as he spread falsehoods about the race being stolen from him, overshadowing whatever substantive achievements they might remember. Some of his aides who had been with him the longest said they did not even watch the send-off on television.
Others wanted to steer clear of Washington in its current quasi-militarized state. And still others left the city before the new administration came in, returning to their home states.