WASHINGTON – The time has finally come for President Trump to find a permanent space in Mar-a-Lago for his $ 50,000 golf simulator, not to mention the 60-inch TV he proudly displayed above the table from the dining room, The Brioni suits and the matching Louis Vuitton luggage of the First Lady she carried around the world.
At 12:01 p.m. Wednesday, hours after Mr. Trump himself plans to leave Washington, all of the First Family’s belongings will have followed him to the White House, en route to his new home in Palm Beach, Florida. And at the end of the day Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill, arrive in a thoroughly cleaned accommodation where their bags will be unpacked, their furniture tidy and their favorite foods stored in the refrigerator.
It’s the awkward pas de deux taken every four or eight years when one family moves in and another moves out, a business done by the staff of the 90-person White House residence in about five hours. A complicated and highly choreographed process takes place on a tight schedule that often requires tidying up anything that hasn’t been packed – some outgoing presidents are more prepared to leave the executive mansion than others.
This year, those involved in the process said, moving day also involves additional cleaning and security measures due to the coronavirus.
“Staff sleep on cots, in stairwells,” said Anita McBride, who served as First Lady Laura Bush’s chief of staff, notably during the 2009 handover to the Obamas. No matter how prepared they are, she says, “it’s always chaotic.”
Biden moving vans are not allowed to begin unloading until the new president is sworn in, even though some of the family’s belongings have been in a storage facility in Maryland since the weekend. Then the residence is supposed to be transformed into something that looks like their home by the time they arrive later in the afternoon.
It’s all part of a White House ritual that Mr. Trump didn’t completely disrupt. But like everything else in politics and life, this year will be more difficult than most.
The Bidens were never invited to meet with residence staff, nor to survey the second floor of the White House, which has 16 bedrooms and six bathrooms and will now be their home. Michelle Obama, on the other hand, had been to the White House twice at the invitation of Mrs. Bush before her husband’s inauguration in 2009.
“Madam. Trump should have invited Dr. Biden over for traditional coffee,” said Capricia Marshall, who served as White House social secretary in the Clinton administration and oversaw that president’s departure in 2001, referring to Melania Trump, the first lady. “Usually she would come prepared with questions, she would meet and talk with the chef, full time residence staff and would have the opportunity for them to break the ice. It’s a courtesy, but logistically it is incredibly useful, it has not happened.
Ms Trump, according to CNN, has been packing her bags for weeks, eager to leave the White House with her 14-year-old son Barron and get on with their lives. She had no communication with Dr. Biden.
Biden’s transition team has, however, been in contact with Timothy Harleth, the chief bailiff who was hired by Ms. Trump in 2017 after her role as room manager at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, to coordinate the move.
Mr. Harleth’s appointment was quite unusual: the Chief Bailiff was generally an apolitical civil servant, often with military training, who did not work with administrations. Because of Mr. Harleth’s connection to the Trump organization, some had speculated that he would go with the outgoing president.
Although he has not discussed his future with Dr Biden, Mr Harleth is expected to stay for the time being, administration officials say, to deal with staff issues, plan the family dinner menus and manage the budget of the residence. He made it clear that he was very keen on staying permanently and did not want to be seen as a Trump loyalist, although he also hired other staff from Trump properties. (He told people, for example, that he had never met the Trumps before his interview to work in the White House.)
At this point, the concerns are more pressing. Biden’s advisers were so worried about the deep cleaning of the complex to protect its new residents from the coronavirus that some even advised the president-elect not to move in on January 20 and stay at Blair House, the nearby guesthouse where he and his family should stay Tuesday night instead.
“All early family spaces are cleaned and sanitized at all times, including Jan. 20,” said Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, who declined to provide further details, citing security concerns and confidentiality.
The Bidens plan to move into the White House on January 20, but they will move in with the bare minimum: there are no plans to immediately bring in an interior designer or start customizing the space.
Joseph R. Biden Jr. will become President of the United States at noon on January 20 in a scaled-down dedication ceremony. While the key elements will remain traditional, many events will be scaled down and “redesigned” to better tailor the celebration to a nation battling the coronavirus. Mr. Biden will be sworn in by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on the Western Front of the Capitol sometime before noon. The new president is then expected to deliver his inaugural address and conduct a review of military troops, as tradition dictates. But instead of a traditional parade before cheering onlookers along Pennsylvania Avenue as the new president, vice president and their families make their way to the White House more than a mile away, there will be an official escort with representatives from each branch of the military for one. a block.
President Trump announced on Friday that he would not attend Mr. Biden’s inauguration. Mr Biden called the move “one of the few things he and I have ever agreed on. Yet it is a major break with the tradition for a president to skip the ceremonial heart of the country’s democracy: the peaceful transfer of power.
George W. Bush, has confirmed that he will travel to Washington for the day of the inauguration, with Laura Bush, the former first lady. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are also expected to attend, along with former First Ladies Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. This year tickets are not available to members of the public. Planners are urging people to stay home and participate in virtual inaugural events to prevent large crowds who could easily spread the coronavirus. The events will be broadcast live by the inaugural presidential committee and the New York Times.
The 20th Amendment to the Constitution requires that the term of office of each elected president and vice-president begin at noon on January 20 of the year following the election. Each president has taken an oath and he cannot assume his duties without doing so. Symbolically, it marks the peaceful transfer of power from the current president to the next. Inauguration day will be all the more important this year as Mr Biden ascends to the presidency at a time when political division has threatened the country’s democratic institutions and his predecessor has made extreme efforts to stay in power.
“It’s a mad rush,” said Betty Monkman, White House curator for more than three decades who helped oversee the transition from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush in 2001. “Sometimes beds have to be brought along , the living rooms are converted into bedrooms. ”
Curators from the White House Historical Association will have compiled briefing notebooks and photographs of items from its collection that can be borrowed, along with blueprints showing room layouts for the Bidens to review, said Mrs. Monkman. The Carters, for example, moved into the White House with very little of their own furniture, relying mostly on pieces from the permanent collection.
The task of the residence staff can be made even more difficult as the inauguration day festivities themselves will be reduced and possibly shorter.
Typically, the hectic working day begins around 10:30 a.m., after the President and First Lady have left for the Capitol to participate in the inaugural events. This year there is no parade or lunch at the Capitol, which means residency preparation time can be cut short as well.
The move is always more stressful if a president leaves the White House after a term. “The advantage of the Clintons was that they knew before the inauguration that they were leaving,” Ms. Marshall said. “There was never a question. They really took this last year to plan, to explain what and how they were going to move.
For Mr. Trump, who has spent the transition disputing the election results, preparing to leave the White House has not been a major concern.
The departure of the outgoing president is usually a tradition that includes bittersweet moments between presidents and the staff who have served them. As he cleaned his closet during some of his final hours at the White House, Mr. Clinton sat down with his personal butlers and valets and helped them choose which Presidential ties they wanted to retain. Former White House photographer Pete Souza on Monday shared a photo of President Barack Obama kissing the woman who delivered his mail to him every day as he bid farewell.
It’s unclear if or when Mr. Trump plans to say goodbye to staff he’s never been particularly close to, as he plans to leave for Palm Beach early Wednesday morning.
His early departure, however, can be a gift for his staff, who will have a little more time to begin the hectic preparations.
“The good news is there is a process, there is a checklist,” McBride said. “The staff know what to do. And the Bidens know the building, they know the people. They were there a lot.