US President Donald Trump has emerged from self-imposed isolation to show that at least one thing in Washington will run according to tradition: The pardoning of a Thanksgiving turkey.
In the Rose Garden on Tuesday (Washington time), Mr Trump stuck to the script, pardoning a 19-kilogram turkey named Corn from appearing on an American dinner table.
“Corn, I hereby grant you a full pardon,” Mr Trump said, raising a hand over the white bird to applause from assembled White House staffers.
Eating turkey on Thanksgiving is an American tradition, with the official pardoning part of an annual presidential ritual that is full of showmanship.
Before the pardoning, the two turkeys – named Corn and Cob – apparently spent a luxurious night at the Willard hotel in Washington DC, with the National Turkey Federation tweeting:
“What, you haven’t jumped on the bed before? Getting cosy for the night – gotta get that beauty sleep.”
One Twitter user quickly pointed out that the presidential turkeys had stayed in a hotel not owned by Mr Trump.
Mr Trump has largely remained out of public view since his election defeat. He has confined his public responses to Mr Biden’s victory to bitter Twitter sprays of baseless claims about voter fraud and rigged elections – and hasn’t taken a single question from a journalist.
Tuesday’s turkey pardon was no different. Mr Trump again ignored journalists’ questions about whether he will concede to Mr Biden, whether he plans to make another White House run in 2024 and if he plans to pardon himself, as well as the lucky turkey.
Speculation about presidential pardons has risen in the US following the election. It emerged later in the day that Mr Trump had told allies he planned to pardon his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Flynn, a retired army general has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. He has since sought to withdraw the plea, arguing prosecutors violated his rights and duped him into a plea agreement.
Earlier in the day, Mr Trump made a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing room. He delivered a speech just over a minute long touting the booming US stock market and progress on COVID vaccines before promptly departing – again without taking questions.
On Monday, first lady Melania Trump was along for the traditional welcome of the White House Christmas tree – normally a family event.
She emerged from the White House for just a few minutes as the 5.6-metre Fraser fir arrived on on a horse-drawn wagon.
Mr Trump did signal on Monday that he would finally direct his team to begin the process of transitioning the presidency to Mr Biden and his team. But even then he remained defiant, later tweeting: “Will never concede to fake ballots”.
Mr Trump’s refusal to officially concede defeat more than 20 days after he lost the election has sparked the ire of critics, with one Twitter user providing a “flashback” to an earlier turkey pardoning loaded with irony.
Mr Trump usually goes to his oceanfront Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for Thanksgiving but this year’s trip was reportedly cancelled by his wife. It has been seen by some as an acknowledgement the Trumps realise this will be the last such holiday they spend at the White House.