President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump slipped out of the Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday after the casket carrying the remains of the late President George H.W. Bush was carried up the aisle of the grand church.
The first couple, followed by Vice President Mike Pence, followed the Bush family and the casket up the aisle at the conclusion of Bush’s state funeral.
But then they left to return to the White House, getting back there before the hearse carrying Bush’s remains had left the church grounds.
The pool of reporters traveling with the president reported the motorcade carrying the first couple left the cathedral at 1:14 p.m.
President Trump gives a thumbs up to departing Bush family members
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump – pictured with their predecessors – slipped out of cathedral after the service concluded
The first couple leaving the ceremony
The first couple followed the Bush family down the aisle of the Washington National Cathedral
That was before the casket carrying Bush was placed in the hearse. The Bush family will accompany the elder Bush’s remains back to Joint Base Andrews, where they will return to Houston via the presidential plane.
Trump was reported to back at the White House at 1:25 p.m.
The early exit gave President Trump a way to avoid talking to his predecessors and with Hillary Clinton, his 2016 campaign rival who pointedly ignored him as he and the first lady entered the cathedral for the service.
Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton sat two seats away from President Trump and first lady Melania Trump – in the first gathering of the four since Inauguration Day.
Hillary Clinton looked resolutely ahead during their arrival at Washington National Cathedral even as the first couple walked by her to take their seats.
Seated in order of presidential precedence, Trump sat in the first seat in the first row of the Washington National Cathedral with the first lady beside him.
Next to her was former President Barack Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama, and then Bill Clinton with Hillary Clinton beside him.
Melania Trump shook hands with the Obamas and Bill Clinton when she arrived at the row of seats.
President Trump shook hands with the Obamas only.
President Trump, Melania Trump, former President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton seated in the front row together for former President George H.W. Bush’s funeral
President Trump and Melania Trump arrive for the funeral
The Bush family assured Trump this past summer that the funeral of patriarch George H.W. Bush would not include any criticism of the sitting President.
Funeral planners were seeking to avoid what took place during the memorial services for late Arizona Senator John McCain, which his family used as a platform from which to implicitly criticize Trump, who was not invited.
The Bushes were keen to keep the focus on the achievements of the nation’s 41st President without the memorial service being overshadowed by the poisonous political culture that has taken shape today, according to The Washington Post.
Indeed there was no mention of Trump at the two and a half hour service, which was filled with praise for George H.W. Bush’s service in the military and to his country as president.