As of this weekend, President Donald Trump has now waited longer than any president in nearly a century to sit down with his successor at the White House — a tradition aimed at highlighting the peaceful transfer of power that is at the core of American democracy.
And advisers to Trump say he and President-elect Joe Biden may never come face to face, even on Inauguration Day, blowing up another American political ritual.
But while Biden said in a CNN interview earlier this month that Trump’s presence at his inauguration would be symbolically important, neither side sees much value in the two men conversing… ever.
“In normal circumstances, it is one more indication of the peaceful transfer of power and the depth of our respect for democracy,” said John Podesta, who as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff welcomed President-elect George W. Bush and his top aides to the White House on Dec. 19, 2000, a meeting that was delayed by the Florida recount and court challenges to the election results.
But Biden, Podesta said, would have little to gain from meeting with Trump, who still hasn’t conceded. “My view would be, why bother?” he said.
Those in Trump’s orbit aren’t any more enthusiastic than Podesta. “Talk to him about what?” said one person close to the president, when asked whether Trump might speak to Biden.
Those close to Trump believe inviting Biden to the White House or even talking to him would risk being perceived as conceding the race, which Trump has been loath to do as he mulls another run in 2024. The same factors could keep him away from Biden’s inauguration next month.
Trump probably won’t meet with Biden or go to his swearing-in “because Joe Biden is an illegitimate president and should never be treated in such a way,” another Trump adviser said. “That’s what the president thinks and that’s what a lot of people agree with.”
Judd Deere, a White House spokesperson, declined to comment on Trump’s plans.
“Anonymous sources who claim to know what the President is or is not considering have no idea,” he said in a statement. “When President Trump has an announcement about his plans for Jan. 20 he will let you know.”