WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump wielded his pardon power Tuesday to spare a pair of turkeys from the Thanksgiving roaster, joking that he would also let last year’s turkey pardons stand despite his penchant for overturning Obama-era orders.
In a brief and humorous White House ceremony, Trump extended the annual presidential tradition of pardoning turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving, an act of leniency that prolongs the lives of Minnesota-bred gobblers Wishbone and Drumstick, with the latter receiving the formal reprieve.
Trump said he and the first lady have welcomed many special visitors to the White House, including world leaders, Congress members “and, along the way, a few very strange birds. But we have yet to receive any visitors quite like our magnificent guest of honor today, Drumstick.”
“I’m pleased to report that unlike millions of other turkeys at this time of the year, Drumstick has a very, very bright future ahead of it,” he said. Trump announced that Drumstick “and his friend Wishbone” will spend the rest of their lives on the campus of Virginia Tech, joining Tater and Tot, the two turkeys that were pardoned last year by President Barack Obama.
Trump, who has undone numerous Obama initiatives, used the opportunity to poke fun at the former president.
“As many of you know, I’ve been very active in overturning a number of executive actions by my predecessor,” Trump said. “However, I have been informed by the White House counsel’s office that Tater and Tot’s pardons cannot, under any circumstances, be revoked. So we’re not going to revoke them. So Tater and Tot, you can rest easy.”
Before declaring that Drumstick had been pardoned, Trump took a moment to thank service members and first responders, as well as the public.
“This Thursday, as we give thanks for our cherished loved ones, let us also renew our bonds of trust, loyalty and affection between our fellow citizens as members of a proud national family of Americans,” Trump said in the Rose Garden, flanked by his wife and 11-year-old son, Barron.
His daughters Ivanka, a senior White House adviser, and Tiffany, a law school student; Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, also a senior White House adviser; and the first lady’s parents also attended the ceremony.
Trump was headed later Tuesday to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, where he was spending the holiday with family.
Trump will return to a White House that will have been transformed for Christmas by an army of volunteer decorators and florists who will spend the weekend decking its halls. The first lady and Barron on Monday accepted delivery of the official White House Christmas tree. It goes on display in the White House Blue Room.
The White House plans to unveil the holiday decor on Monday, and the first lady will also welcome children and students from Joint Base Andrews for holiday arts and crafts. The president is scheduled to light the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse on Thursday.
Presidents as far back as Abraham Lincoln have spared turkeys. President George H.W. Bush is credited with turning the pardon into an annual tradition.
AP writer: Darlene Superville