President Donald Trump attempts a surreal return to normalcy a day after inciting a mob of his supporters to riot, culminating in the first breach the US Capitol in 200 years.
On Thursday, he awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to golfers Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player, as well as a posthumous Medal of Freedom to Olympic athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias, a White House official told CNN.
Trump’s attempted return to business as usual comes amid the ongoing global pandemic and after a stunning siege he personally incited, leaving four dead and the Capitol building ransacked. In the aftermath, some Cabinet members have had discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment amid concerns about what could happen before Trump leaves office, multiple officials are offering resignations, and there are ongoing questions about what went wrong and what happens next with the presidential transition.
In another display of attempted nothing-to-see-here behavior, Trump phoned in to the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, briefly addressing a friendly crowd of RNC members via speakerphone with no mention of Wednesday’s events.
However, due to the fact that the RNC is currently an active crime scene after a pipe bomb was found outside on Wednesday, Trump was forced to cancel his planned Thursday evening video address. It was to be taped with RNC equipment currently inaccessible.
Trump on Thursday canceled a previously scheduled trip to the presidential retreat Camp David, according to a source familiar with the plans. A White House official said the trip had been scheduled before the mob stormed the US Capitol.
The White House had previously announced March 6 that Sorenstam and Player would receive the Medal of Freedom on March 23, which was postponed as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the nation. The late Zaharias’ addition to the list of honorees was new.
Player’s honor is notable because the golfer embraced apartheid in South Africa, though he later said he was wrong, telling GOLF Magazine last June he was ‘proud’ his thinking had changed.” His inclusion marks an inauspicious decision, given that the President himself has fomented racial unrest.
Trump, an avid golfer himself, previously honored Tiger Woods with a Medal of Freedom. The President has spent 313 days during his time in office at a golf club.
With 13 days left in the Trump presidency, the White House has been inundated with requests for the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Thursday’s presentation was not listed on Trump’s public schedule, which instead said Trump would have “many meetings” and “many calls.”
Earlier this week, Trump bestowed the Medal of Freedom upon Capitol Hill ally Rep. Devin Nunes, and is expected to also honor another member of Congress, Rep. Jim Jordan, before leaving office.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Jeremy Diamond, and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.