President-elect Joe Biden has celebrated President Donald Trump’s decision not to attend his swearing-in ceremony on January 20, saying “it’s a good thing”.
Trump said in a tweet on Friday that he “will not be going to the inauguration”, in what would be an unusual break with custom that is seen as part of the peaceful transition of power in the United States.
The last incumbent president to miss his successor’s inauguration was Andrew Johnson in 1869.
“One of the few things he and I have ever agreed on,” Biden said of Trump’s decision later on Friday as he unveiled his picks for secretaries of commerce and labour.
As for Vice President Mike Pence, Biden said he would like him to be in attendance.
“The vice president is welcome to come, I’d be honoured to have him there,” Biden said.
Trump’s tweet came as Democrats in Congress continued to build momentum towards impeaching the president for “inciting violence”, two days after crowds of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in chaotic scenes that left at least five people dead, including a police officer.
On Thursday, Trump posted a video statement in which he condemned the violence and acknowledged a new administration would be inaugurated soon.
When Biden was asked about House Democrats’ reported plans to introduce articles of impeachment against Trump, the president-elect demurred, saying he is focused on the issues he will face as president and “what the Congress decides to do is for them to decide”.
That being said, Biden added that Trump “has exceeded even my worst notions about him. He’s been an embarrassment to the country, embarrassed us around the world, not worthy, not worthy to hold that office”.
Biden was asked how members of the pro-Trump mob that stormed the US Capitol should be treated by law enforcement and prosecutors.
“They should be treated as they’re a bunch of thugs, insurrectionists, white supremacists, anti-Semites,” Biden said. “These are a bunch of thugs, thugs. And they’re a bunch of terrorists, domestic terrorists.”
“This had the active encouragement of a sitting president of the United States,” Biden continued, adding that the security issues the riot revealed deserve “a full-blown investigation, people be held accountable and steps taken [so] that something like this could never happen again”.
With 12 days until his inauguration, Biden still does not have any of his cabinet nominees approved and he called on the Senate to approve his choices as soon as possible after January 20. He singled out the importance of getting his choices for defence, state, treasury and homeland security confirmed in short order.
Biden also mentioned he gave “serious consideration” to his former presidential rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, to be his labour secretary. But Biden said they agreed the move would be risky as a special election to fill Sanders’s Senate seat could put the Democrats’ soon-to-be Senate majority in peril.