Trump plans to leave in dramatic fashion yet continues to stay out of sight

He may issue pardons as a Senate impeachment trial looms.

January 18, 2021, 11:16 AM

President Donald Trump on Monday prepared to depart the White House and Washington on Wednesday in dramatic fashion, but in his final days he continued to stay isolated and out of sight.

He has not held any public events in six days, although aides insist he is hard at work on behalf of the American people, publishing daily on the president’s otherwise empty public schedule that he "will work from early in the morning until late in the evening" and "make many calls and have many meetings."

The president is set to depart Washington early morning Wednesday morning ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s swearing-in, making him the first president in over 150 years to skip the inauguration of his successor in a ceremonial transfer of power.

He will leave Washington behind in Trumpian fashion-- still as president.

Sources familiar with the planning tell ABC News he wants to have a military-style sendoff from Joint Base Andrews Wednesday morning, complete with a military band and a red-carpet walk flanked by troops as he boards Air Force One for the last time, and even possibly a flyover by Air Force fighter jets.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump waves as he walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on Jan. 12, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
President Donald Trump waves as he walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on Jan. 12, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Following last week's deadly pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol, President Trump is making his first public appearance with a trip to the town of Alamo, Texas to view the construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images, FILE

While Trump's sendoff is expected to have extra flourishes, it's not uncommon for an outgoing president to have a final departure ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, although it usually takes place after the outgoing president has departed the inauguration ceremony for their successor, something Trump will not do.

President Barack Obama delivered farewell remarks in a hangar at the base before walking a red carpet lined with military personnel and climbing the steps up to the presidential jet for one final ride.

Before Trump goes, he is expected to issue pardons and commutations, potentially more than 100. Sources tell ABC News that a self-pardon is a possibility and that the president would like to do it, even though his lawyers have advised against it, warning that such a move is legally questionable.

Trump has long believed he can pardon himself if he chooses and previously insisted he has the "absolute right" to do so.

Democrats, meanwhile, have a team assembled and prepared to make their case for the president’s conviction at a Senate trial as soon as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sends over the article of impeachment.

Pelosi has not said when she will transmit the article but might do so as early as Tuesday. Maryland Democrat Rep. Jamie Raskin, who will lead the prosecution against President Trump in the Senate, said Sunday the article will be transmitted "soon."

PHOTO: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 15, 2021.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 15, 2021. Pelosi will task retired general Russel Honore with the security review after the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

A constitutional law professor, Raskin argues that evidence of the president's role in the charged "incitement of insurrection" is clear and expressed confidence in the Democrats’ case for conviction.

"This was the most serious presidential crime in the history of the United States of America. The most dangerous crime by a president ever committed against the United States," Raskin said in an interview with CNN on Sunday.

Still, Democrats face a challenging task in winning a conviction against the president. While there have been three previous presidential impeachments in U.S. history, none has resulted in a conviction in the Senate. Democrats face the difficult task of achieving a two-thirds majority vote, meaning that at least 17 Republicans would have to join with Democrats in voting against a president of their own party.

So far, not a single Republican has gone on record to say they’ll vote to convict Trump, though some have hinted they will consider doing so. But there are other Trump allies who have been vocal in opposing a conviction.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham contend that it would be unconstitutional to convict an ex-president.

"Proceeding with the spectacle of impeachment of a former president is as unwise as it is unconstitutional," Graham wrote in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer over the weekend. "The Senate's attempt to disqualify a President from future office who is no longer in office, would be an unconstitutional act of political vengeance, not a righteous constitutional act to protect the Nation by removal of an incumbent president."

The constitutionality of an impeachment trial of a former president has never before been tested, though there is some precedent for impeachment proceedings against other former federal officials.

Graham has further admonished his Republican colleagues who dare to consider the merits of the case against the president, arguing that a conviction could do irrevocable damage to the Republican party.

“To my Republican colleagues in the Senate, if we embrace an unconstitutional impeachment of Donald Trump after he is out of office, it will destroy the party,” Graham said in an interview on Fox Business with Maria Bartiromo. “Impeaching him after he leaves office is not only unconstitutional -- from a Republican point of view, it would destroy our party.”

As of Monday morning, it was still unclear who would even represent the president in mounting a legal defense.

On Saturday, the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was spotted at the White House and told ABC News he was working on the president’s impeachment defense. But just one day later, Giuliani said he would not be working on the president’s case after all, citing his participation in the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the violent siege on the Capitol.

“Because I gave an earlier speech [at the Jan. 6 Trump rally before the Capitol riot],” Giuliani told ABC News in a statement late Sunday night. “I am a witness and therefore unable to participate in court or [the] Senate chamber.”

Like the president, Giuliani’s words to the crowd are the subject of scrutiny.

“Let’s have trial by combat,” Giuliani told the crowd that the president later addressed and urged to march on the Capitol.

Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died when the crowd of thousands of pro-Trump demonstrators later overtook the Capitol in an effort to prevent Vice President Mike Pence and a joint session of Congress from certifying the results of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

ABC News' Jonathan Karl, John Santucci, Karen Faulders and Karen Travers contributed to this report.

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