President Joe Biden said that his predecessor, Donald Trump, left him a “very generous letter” before leaving Washington before his inauguration on Wednesday.
Biden told reporters in the Oval Office: “The president wrote a very generous letter. Because it was private, I will not talk about it until I talk to him.”
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 U.S. into the Paris Agreement on climate.
Biden’s executive actions, particularly the mask mandate, are also intended to set an example for state and local officials as they try to rein in the virus. Lockdown orders and business closures imposed by political leaders have thrown millions of Americans out of work and hobbled the US economy.
He was expected to sign further actions behind closed doors. The text of the orders and directives have not yet been released.
President Biden’s first moves look to mark a sharp change from the Trump administration’s Covid-19 pandemic response.
Biden took office a day after the United States reached a very grim milestone of 400,000 deaths from Covid-19. Observer say vaccination programs under Trump administration were not given due priority and failed to meet the target of 20 million Americans getting it by the end of 2020.
The US government sent roughly 36 million doses of two approved vaccines to states but only 16.5 million have been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’re entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus and must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation,” Biden, a 78-year-old Democrat, said in his inauguration speech.
Speaking at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, former President Trump suggested his administration was a victim of the virus.
“We got hit. Nobody blames us for that. The whole world got it,” he said of the pandemic’s toll on the economy. He later touted the development of a vaccine as a “miracle” before paying his respects to people and families impacted by the virus”.
The United States has reported 200,000 new Covid-19 infections and 3,000 deaths per day on weekly average which is not a scenario any new President would like to come in to commence his term in office.
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.
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.