KEY POINTS

  • Biden confirms receiving a letter from Trump
  • The letter is a "personal note" that reminded the new administration to care for America
  • The practice of writing a letter to a successor began with former President Ronald Reagan

President Joe Biden on Wednesday confirmed that former President Donald Trump wrote him a “very generous letter” before leaving the White House, but refused to reveal what was in the note. 

Biden, who spoke from the Oval House  after signing a slew of executive orders, said he would not share details about the content of the letter until he and Trump have had a chance to talk. 

“The president wrote a very generous letter. I’m not going to talk about it because it was private, so I will not talk about it until I talk to him, but it was generous,” Biden said

White House spokesman Judd Deere also confirmed that Trump left a letter for Biden, but said the content should remain private between both parties. 

“It’s a letter between 45 and 46,” Deere said. 

Trump’s letter to the new president was a “personal note” that reminded the Biden administration to care for the country and wished for the nation to prosper, a senior Trump aide told CNN. 

The former president broke many traditions, including attending his successor’s Inauguration Day event. However, a person familiar with the matter said Trump was keeping with his past enthusiasm for the letter Barack Obama left for him in 2016. 

"It was long. It was complex. It was thoughtful. And it took time to do it, and I appreciated it,” Trump had previously said of the letter. 

Separately, former Vice President Mike Pence also left a letter to his successor, Vice President Kamala Harris. 

Writing a letter addressed to the incoming administration has been a tradition at the White House for over 32 years. The practice began on Jan. 20, 1989, when George H.W. Bush was set to take over the Oval Office from Ronald Reagan. 

Reagan famously wrote his letter on stationary illustrated by Sandra K. Boynton that included pictures of cartoon elephants and turkeys, along with the caption, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down.”

Bush, who left office after serving one term, continued the tradition by writing a letter to incoming President Bill Clinton, who then left a letter for Obama in 2009. 

After serving two terms, Obama left a long, handwritten note for Trump. Unlike his predecessors, Obama addressed Trump as “Mr. President.”

The letter reads:

Dear Mr. President -

Congratulations on a remarkable run. Millions have placed their hopes in you, and all of us, regardless of party, should hope for expanded prosperity and security during your tenure.

This is a unique office, without a clear blueprint for success, so I don’t know that any advice from me will be particularly helpful. Still, let me offer a few reflections from the past 8 years.

First, we’ve both been blessed, in different ways, with great good fortune. Not everyone is so lucky. It’s up to us to do everything we can (to) build more ladders of success for every child and family that’s willing to work hard.

Second, American leadership in this world really is indispensable. It’s up to us, through action and example, to sustain the international order that’s expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War, and upon which our own wealth and safety depend.

Third, we are just temporary occupants of this office. That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions – like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties – that our forebears fought and bled for. Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.

And finally, take time, in the rush of events and responsibilities, for friends and family. They’ll get you through the inevitable rough patches.

Michelle and I wish you and Melania the very best as you embark on this great adventure, and know that we stand ready to help in any ways which we can.

Good luck and Godspeed,

BO

US President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of orders in the Oval Office of the White House on his first day in office US President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of orders in the Oval Office of the White House on his first day in office Photo: AFP / Jim WATSON