As soon as US media called the election for Joe Biden, Democrats started promoting “Adiós Trump” T-shirts, in what was a fitting way to mark the end of a presidency that was launched with racist attacks on Mexicans.

Following four years of chaos and tens of thousands of tweets from the president, the former reality TV star will depart the White House after a record number of Americans gave him a taste of his own medicine: you’re fired!

Mr Trump had long toyed with running for president. But when he came down the elevator in Trump Tower in June 2015 to declare his candidacy, he stunned the political establishment by saying he would build a wall on the southern border to keep out Mexican “rapists” and “murderers”.

The Republican establishment saw the real estate mogul, who became a household name with The Apprentice reality TV show, as a joke. A year later, the joke was on them.

After an unorthodox primary he won the Republican nomination. Running a nativist “America First” campaign, he defeated 16 seasoned Republicans who never worked out how to respond to someone who would demean them with names like “Low energy Jeb Bush” and “Lyin’ Ted Cruz”.

Over and over, he proved to have a Teflon coating. When he mocked John McCain, a Republican war hero, nothing changed. When a tape emerged of him bragging about his sexual behaviour with women in crude terms, there were no political consequences.

Donald Trump arrives to be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States in Washington, DC on January 20 2017. © EPA-EFE

Yet the Democrats fatally underestimated the grassroots support for Mr Trump, who was holding huge, carnivalesque rallies in which people would chant “Lock her up” about his opponent Hillary Clinton and “Build that wall”.

After his victory, Republicans said he would pivot to being presidential. But the naivety of that view was exposed on inauguration day.

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After a dark speech in which Mr Trump talked about “American carnage”, former president George W Bush turned to Mrs Clinton and quipped: “Well, that was some weird shit.”

When photos — taken by the government — showed that his inauguration crowd was smaller than that of Barack Obama in 2008, he sent his press secretary Sean Spicer to the podium to lie about the numbers.

It was a foretaste of what people would politely describe as the president’s “casual relationship” with the truth.

The early months of his White House tenure were mired in chaos that would become a permanent fixture. One official told the FT that it was as if Mr Trump had hired a team of people who did not know each other, given them sharp knives, and locked the doors to the White House West Wing to prevent escape.

The upheaval in his administration began with the firing after three weeks of Michael Flynn, his first of four national security advisers. He ran through communications aides, including Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted a record 10 days after referring to Reince Priebus, one of four chiefs of staff, as a “paranoiac”. Mr Priebus was also later fired, but not before he exemplified the wild west environment in the West Wing by leaving a Financial Times reporter briefly unaccompanied in his office after 10pm with no staff in the vicinity as emails rolled down his computer screen.

On the international stage, Mr Trump was rebuked for appearing to cosy up to authoritarian leaders from Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator.

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In an infamous press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in 2018, he dismissed the views of his own intelligence community and accepted the Russian president’s denial that Moscow had meddled in the US election.

At the same time, he mocked the leaders of US allies, from Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, to French president Emmanuel Macron when they disagreed with his approach. But his favourite target was German leader Angela Merkel.

Mr Trump had a fractious relationship with German leader Angela Merkel © AFP/Getty Images

At the G7 in Canada, Mr Trump threw a couple of pieces of candy across the table, saying: “Here, Angela. Don’t say I never give you anything.”

Although he frequently praised his “good friend” Chinese president Xi Jinping until the coronavirus arrived in the US, he launched a trade war with China before signing a piecemeal deal that produced very little.

Domestically, he failed to achieve some of his biggest priorities — building the wall and a big infrastructure bill. But he put three conservative judges on the Supreme Court, and ushered through a huge tax cut.

One former official said Mr Trump wanted to call the legislation, “The Cut, Cut, Cut Bill”, and told Paul Ryan, speaker of the House, that Republicans on Capitol Hill always gave their legislation such boring names.

In another example of the Teflon-nature of his presidency until this weekend, Mr Trump was impeached in the House over his attempts to get Ukraine to meddle in the US election by digging up dirt on Mr Biden — but was acquitted in a Senate trial.

Mr Trump was only the third president to be impeached in the House, after Bill Clinton in 1998, and Andrew Johnson 130 years before that.

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White nationalists ahead of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 © Stephanie Keith/Reuters

In four years of turbulence, several moments stood out. In 2018, he was castigated for saying there were “very fine people on both sides” after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned deadly.

And he came under intense fire after authorities fired tear gas to disperse peaceful anti-racism protesters near the White House so that he could perform a photo opportunity at a nearby church.

But the controversy that will define his legacy was his handling of Covid-19, which he said would disappear like a “miracle”. It has since killed almost 230,000 Americans. His incoherent response was underscored when he urged people to ingest disinfectant to help protect themselves.

Coupled with his refusal to condemn racism, his handling of the pandemic ultimately sparked his defeat, as suburban Republicans joined with Democrats to hand victory an opponent he had mocked as “Sleepy Joe”.

Rudy Giuliani speaks at a news conference in the parking lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping on Saturday © AFP via Getty Images

The surreal nature of his presidency was captured on Saturday when his lawyers, including former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, held a press conference at a nondescript small business on the outskirts of Philadelphia called Four Seasons Total Landscaping, nestled between a crematorium and a sex shop called Fantasy Island.

Mr Giuliani used the press conference to make baseless claims about voter fraud while US media called the election for Mr Biden, closing the curtains on his presidency.

As his political fate was sealed, Mr Trump was playing golf in Virginia.

Minutes after Fox News, a conservative channel that has been sympathetic to Mr Trump, declared him the loser, John Roberts, a veteran Fox reporter, said: “If I was the president, I wouldn’t be making a lot of putts right now”.

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Via Financial Times