Missouri's Roy Blunt: Trump's decision not to attend inauguration a 'personal mistake'
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt says former President Donald Trump erred in skipping President Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.
In a final act of norm-busting, Trump, a Republican, became the first sitting president to skip a successor's inauguration since 1869 when he decamped for Florida instead of watching Biden, a Democrat, take the oath of office.
Hours later, Blunt, a Republican who chairs the congressional committee that organized the inauguration, briefly addressed the decision and called it a mistake.
"I think it was a personal mistake on his part," he told ABC. "But everybody gets to make those decisions."
He then quickly turned to praise outgoing Vice President Mike Pence for showing up and recognizing the symbolic importance of his presence at the transfer of power.
"I think it would have been a bigger problem if Vice President Pence hadn't chosen to be here," he said. "He understood the importance of the moment."
He added that Pence also rose to the occasion two weeks ago in coming back into session with the Senate to count presidential electoral votes after pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop the count.
Blunt also said Biden, whose victory he once questioned, made a nice gesture in inviting former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama to visit Arlington National Cemetery after the inauguration to pay respects to service members.
Blunt also delivered a short speech at the inauguration Wednesday as part of his committee chairman role.
In it, he noted that the Founding Fathers said they adopted the Constitution to form a "more perfect Union" and said that charge of continuously improving the country still governs today.
"They understand that always working to be better would be the hallmark of a great democracy," he said. "We are more than we have been and we are less than we hope to be."
He also touched on the riot at the Capitol two weeks prior, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the building in a violent attempt to block Congress from accepting Biden's Electoral College victory.
"The assault on our capital reminds us that a government designed to both balance and check itself is both fragile and resilient," he said.
He also said that while inaugurations always leave one party happier than the other, Wednesday should not be a day of bitterness.
“This is not a moment of division, it’s a moment of unification," he said. "A new administration begins and brings with it a new beginning, and with that our great national debate goes forward, and a determined democracy will continue to be essential in pursuing a more perfect union and a better future for all Americans."
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader's politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at email@example.com.