Trump leaves parting Oval Office letter for Biden

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Nick Niedzwiadek
·2 min read
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After four years of shattering precedent inside the White House, President Donald Trump took part in one final presidential tradition on his way out of office Wednesday: leaving a letter for his successor inside the Oval Office.

Trump spokesperson Judd Deere confirmed Wednesday that the president had written a letter to President-elect Joe Biden and left it for him in the Oval Office's Resolute Desk. The Trump White House did not divulge the contents of what Trump left for Biden to read.

Speaking to reporters from the Oval Office for the first time as president on Wednesday evening, Biden said he, too, would keep the note under wraps until he had a moment to connect with Trump.

“The president wrote a very generous letter,“ Biden said. “Because it was private, I will not talk about it until I talk to him, but it was generous.“

Trump has forsaken other symbolic aspects of the transfer of power between presidents — including skipping Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday and instead heading to his private club in Florida after a farewell ceremony at Joint Base Andrews.

The letter-writing tradition between outgoing and incoming presidents is a relatively recent one, having been started lightheartedly by former President Ronald Reagan for his vice president George H.W. Bush. The message was written on stationery that included the aphorism “Don’t let the turkeys get you down” with a depiction of an elephant surrounded by said birds.

Arguably the most famous of these letters — Bush's 1993 letter to Bill Clinton — is also the most comparable to the Trump-Biden dynamic, as both featured presidents leaving office following unsuccessful re-election bids and hard-fought campaigns.

In it Bush struck a conciliatory note, writing that he considers Clinton to be "our President," underlining the first word for emphasis.

"Your success is now our country's success. I am rooting hard for you," Bush wrote.

Upon his arrival to the White House, Trump received a letter from President Barack Obama wishing him and his administration good fortune and urging him to endeavor to leave the “instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.”