Donald Trump isolated and enraged ahead of Biden inauguration

Adam Gabbatt in New York
·6-min read
<span>Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters

It was once easy to determine Donald Trump’s mood. All it took was a look at his Twitter account. But with that gone, it has never been so difficult to gain a glimpse into the president’s mindset.

Where frequently a series of all-caps tweets might have suggested an emotional, frustrated Trump, there is silence.

Where posts screeching at fellow Republicans would have indicated a more vindictive bent, or messages with exclamation points a triumphant mood, all that is left of Trump’s Twitter account – which once had 88.7m followers – is a curt message from Twitter’s admin team: “Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules.”

Watch: Trump leaves a destructive presidential legacy

So how has Trump reacted to the events of the past few weeks? By the accounts available, not well. A notoriously excitable president has remained in a state of high alarm.

Mike Pence, Trump’s fanatically loyal vice-president, appears to have borne much of Trump’s fury. Trump had been badgering Pence to refuse to certify Biden as president – something which is almost certainly illegal.

Pence, having stood by Trump as the president bragged about sexually assaulting women, defended white supremacists, paid off women who said they had had affairs with him, strong-armed a foreign government to interfere with the presidential election and had hundreds of children locked in cages at the US-Mexico border as a result of his hardline immigration policies, defied Trump at the last.

‘Mike Pence, Trump’s fanatically loyal vice-president, appears to have borne much of Trump’s fury.’
‘Mike Pence, Trump’s fanatically loyal vice-president, appears to have borne much of Trump’s fury.’ Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Pence’s break with Trump has been wildly overplayed – all the vice-president did was not break the law – but to Trump, disloyalty is disloyalty. After Pence told Trump he would not interfere with the electoral vote count, the New York Times reported that Trump responded in coarse terms.

“You can either go down in history as a patriot,” Trump is said to have told Pence on Wednesday morning 6 January – before the president, according to the House article of impeachment, incited an insurrection at the Capitol.

“Or you can go down in history as a pussy.”

As hundreds of Trump supporters broke into the Capitol, some demanding that Pence be hanged – Trump did not phone his vice-president. In fact, the pair didn’t speak for five days, according to the Times, before meeting in the Oval Office on Monday night.

That meeting, aides told the Times, was “non-substantive” and “stilted”.

As Pence was holed up in a secure location in the Capitol on Wednesday, Trump was angry and isolated, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing White House advisers.

At the rally near the White House before the mob attacked Congress, Trump said he would march to the Capitol with them. They set off down Pennsylvania Avenue but he took his motorcade home instead.

A mob of Trump supporters climb the west wall of the the US Capitol in Washington.
A mob of Trump supporters climbs the west wall of the the US Capitol in Washington. Photograph: José Luis Magaña/AP

During Trump’s previous self-inflicted controversies, he has spent hours on the phone to friends and advisers, but that wasn’t the case in the aftermath of the riot.

The Journal reported that Trump ignored phone calls from the former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, an on-again-off-again confidante, and was “in a dark place”.

“It’s like watching someone self-destruct in front of your very eyes, and you can’t do anything,” an adviser told the Journal.

Trump has even shunned Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who led the doomed effort to overturn the results of the election. The president told aides not to pay Giuliani’s legal fees, according to reports, and expressed dissatisfaction with Giuliani’s energetic, but futile campaign.

In the days after the Capitol attack, the Washington Post quoted an anonymous senior administration who noted: “The president is pretty wound up,” but said Trump was focused more on his life after leaving office – Trump is said to be particularly concerned about the cancelation of a prestigious golf tournament at one of his courses, and Deutsche Bank saying it would not finance any of Trump’s future developments.

All this without word from the president on the soaring coronavirus infections and deaths in the US that are now the highest they have been for the entire pandemic, and are by far the highest in the world, combined with a vaccine administration program that is way behind the government’s own goals.

Related: US suffers bleak January as Covid rages and vaccination campaign falters

Trump is not conducting interviews and aides have been largely absent from the airwaves. The press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, gave a two-minute press briefing a day after the Capitol riots, but scampered away after reading from a prepared script, refusing to answer questions.

Trump has issued a couple of boiler plate written statements through the White House press office, and made some remarks on Tuesday as he prepared to travel to Texas to examine a bit of his border barrier.

“As far as this is concerned,” Trump said, apparently referring to Biden’s inauguration: “We want no violence. Never violence. We want absolutely no violence.” He added, however, that the then-impending impeachment was “causing tremendous anger”, and the subsequent Senate trial was “causing tremendous danger to our country”.

The West Wing of the White House press area. The press office is reportedly ‘virtually empty’.
The West Wing of the White House press area. The press office is reportedly ‘virtually empty’. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Late this week, as Joe Biden prepared to assume the presidency, Trump was still raging, according to CNN. A casual discussion about Trump potentially resigning resulted in “an expletive-laden conversation”, CNN reported, while Trump has been in a state of “sullen desolation”.

The president has at least finally accepted that his term is about to end. Trump has begun thinking about how he will leave Washington, and is keen on “a military-style sendoff and a crowd of supporters”, CNN said, either at the White House or at the Mar-a-Lago compound that is set to become his home.

In a blow to Trump’s aspirations, the Pentagon is set to break with tradition and not hold an armed forces farewell tribute to the president.

As a slew of Trump’s aides have deserted him, CNN reported that the White House press office is “virtually empty”. Even the pool of sources who once leaked to the press almost daily has nearly disappeared, making it harder to discern the president’s state of mind.

Trump, known for turning his back on those who displease him, leaves office having discovered that his confidantes, advisers and friends are now doing the same.

Watch: Donald Trump in profile