In the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday, President Trump pretended to issue a “full presidential pardon” to a turkey named Butter, a strange, farcical annual tradition that is nevertheless one of the few norms of government Trump has not yet done away with or rebranded in his own image.

The ceremony started 20 minutes late, during which time the assembled guests – Tiffany Trump sat in the front row near Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. – stared at an empty and turkeyless lectern, reflecting on the meaning of Thanksgiving in Trump’s Washington.

Perhaps they were reflecting. Almost certainly, they were listening to a Facebook Live streamer named David Harris Jr., who had been admitted to the press area and kept shouting “Trump 2020!” into his phone screen, interspersed with exclamatory updates on his viewer count: “I got 2,000 people on here,” he yelled. “Twenty-nine hundred! … Forty-two hundred! … We’re about to break 5,000! Are you kidding me?? Trump 2020!” A little girl five rows up kept turning around to frown at him.

Finally, Butter was led into the courtyard – a white, 47-pound chonk of a bird raised in North Carolina, named by schoolchildren, selected for the presidential honor by his handlers at the National Turkey Federation, and lodged the previous night at a luxury hotel with his “alternate” turkey, Bread.

Harris and the rest of the crowd fell silent while Butter waddled around in front of the podium, nipping at his handler’s suit pants.

Then out came the president – the one who campaigned on upending Washington and who has in three short years abolished presidential traditions from holding regular news briefings to releasing his tax returns.

But for this most unnecessary (and often maligned) tradition, Trump stuck to the script. He effusively praised “the beautiful feathered friend, the noble turkey” set before him. He read some predictable political jokes about Butter and Bread off a teleprompter: “They’ve already received subpoenas to appear in Adam Schiff’s basement on Saturday.”

“I wish you a lot of luck,” Trump told Butter, who had been hoisted onto a platform so that Trump could lean over him and solemnly announce, as all presidents since George H.W. Bush have done, and as Trump has done twice before on the week of Thanksgiving: “I hereby grant you a full and complete pardon.”

The crowd clapped; Trump and his wife, Melania, walked back into the White House; and the general lack of order that characterizes his Washington reasserted itself.

“Will you pardon Roger Stone?” someone shouted from the press area, referring to the former Trump adviser who last week became latest presidential associate to be convicted in federal court.

“Trump 2020!” Harris told his phone.

“You blocked my shot the entire time!” a photographer screamed at a reporter before storming out of the Rose Garden, preceded by a turkey and a president.

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