Trump returns to White House early, offers year-end message

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President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Trump is returning to Washington after visiting his Mar-a-Lago resort. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump delivered a year-end video message Thursday after returning early from vacation, highlighting his administration’s work to rapidly develop a vaccine against COVID-19 and rebuild the economy.

As the end of his presidency neared, Trump cut short his stay at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida and got back to the White House a day ahead of schedule.

Upon his return, Trump released a video message over Twitter to underscore his administration’s work on the vaccine, economic stimulus checks and America’s “grit, strength and tenacity” in the face of challenges.

He called the vaccine, which is rolling out nationwide, a “truly unprecedented medical miracle” and said it would be available to every American early this coming year. “We have to be remembered for what’s been done,” Trump said in the nearly five-minute message.

The White House didn't give a reason for Trump's early return, and the schedule change means Trump will miss the glitzy New Year’s Eve party held annually at his Palm Beach club.

But it comes as tensions escalate between the United States and Iran in the final weeks of his administration. There is concern in Washington that Iran could order further military retaliation for the U.S. killing last Jan. 3 of top Iranian military commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Iran’s initial response, five days after that deadly U.S. drone strike, was a ballistic missile attack on a military base in Iraq that caused brain concussion injuries to about 100 U.S. troops.

Iranian-supported Shiite militia groups launched a rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Dec. 20. No one was killed, but Trump said days later that Iran was on notice.

“Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over,” Trump tweeted on Dec. 23. He added, ”We hear chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq.”