US President Joe Biden said Wednesday that Donald Trump had left him a "very generous" letter in the Oval Office, in keeping with tradition.
"The president wrote a very generous letter," Biden told reporters at the White House. "Because it's private, I will not talk about it until I talk to him."
It was unclear until Wednesday whether Trump would maintain the tradition of outgoing presidents leaving notes for their successors, after he opted to skip Biden's inauguration and never formally congratulated him on his election win.
The remarks came after Biden signed three executive actions, including a requirement for face masks on federal property and a measure that would re-enter the US into the Paris Agreement on climate.
The signing was Biden’s first press availability in the Oval Office, where some decor from the previous administration has been replaced. He sat at the Resolute Desk, the same desk Trump, Barack Obama and several other presidents have used. Busts of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, whose careers inspired Biden’s work in public service, flanked the room’s fireplace. On a table behind the desk sat pictures of Biden’s family and a bust of the labour leader César Chávez.
Trump departed Washington early Wednesday and arrived at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, before Biden was sworn in to replace him in the White House.
After signing the actions, Biden swore-in about 1,000 political appointees at the White House and federal agencies, who participated via video conference in the East Room.
“We have to restore the soul of this country and I’m counting on all of you,” he said. “We’ve reached a point, in my view, where the American people – the blinders have been taken off.”
He said that the government’s coronavirus vaccination program would be the “most consequential logistical thing that’s ever been done in the United States,” and that his administration “can meet this existential threat of climate change.”
But he also admonished his appointees to lead with “one core American value: humility and trust.”
“If you ever work with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I will fire you on the spot. No ifs, ands or buts,” Biden said. “Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That’s been missing in a big way the last four years.”
In response to a question from a reporter, Biden said that he’s not concerned about his cabinet nominees being confirmed. The Senate has yet to fill any of his cabinet posts.