Travel News

They are preparing the White House for a new president. They have 5 hours.

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.

The Biden transition ›

Answers to your questions on the opening day:

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.

Travel News

Yellen is preparing big changes for the Treasury

WASHINGTON – Two years ago, Janet L. Yellen co-signed a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urging her not to go ahead with plans to ease oversight of large financial firms, warning that this could threaten the stability of the US financial system.

Ms. Yellen’s plea, who was joined by Ben Bernanke, another former Fed chairman, and former Treasury secretaries Jacob J. Lew and Timothy F. Geithner, has gone unheeded. Under Mr. Mnuchin’s leadership, the Financial Stability Supervisory Board continued its plans to stop labeling large non-bank financial institutions like insurers and asset managers as a threat to the financial system, destroying a key pillar of the post-financial crisis regulatory era. .

Now Ms Yellen, who was appointed by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. as Secretary of the Treasury, is set to roll back some of the Trump administration’s regulatory cuts if she gets Senate confirmation. .

Her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday is expected to focus largely on Ms. Yellen’s plans to revive an economy plagued by a pandemic. But she will also be under pressure to show Democrats and progressive groups that she is ready to end what they see as Mr Mnuchin’s darling on Wall Street.

In recent weeks, Ms Yellen and Wally Adeyemo, Mr Biden’s candidate for Deputy Treasury Secretary, have taken a virtual listening tour of industry groups in Washington. According to people who attended these sessions, both emphasized the need to create “equitable growth”, using the tools of the Treasury Department to tackle climate change and rebuild regulatory institutions like the FSOC.

“The focus is on workers, racial justice and inequality, and that’s a good place to start,” said Lisa Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform, an advocacy group that met Ms. Yellen this month. “But reversing the things the current Treasury Department has done is not enough.”

Americans for Financial Reform, a left-wing organization that has spent the past four years largely shut out of the Treasury Department, wants Ms Yellen to give new direction to the FSOC, which has the power to subject large financial firms to greater scrutiny. strict. . It was created by the Dodd Frank Act of 2010 to prevent a repeat of what happened on the eve of the financial crisis, when companies like insurance giant AIG made risky bets out of reach. regulators and then had to be bailed out by taxpayers. .

Its power was defeated under the Trump administration, which freed AIG and three other financial firms from tighter scrutiny.

Americans for Financial Reform urged Ms Yellen and transition officials to harness the power of the FSOC to designate climate change as a “systemic risk” and create tools to limit the leverage of hedge funds, which are only lightly regulated.

Ms. Yellen probably has a new regulatory approach in mind. She called last year for a “new Dodd-Frank,” arguing at a Brookings Institution event that existing laws were insufficient to deal with the “shadow” banking problems that emerged when the pandemic hit. caused serious market unrest.

The former Fed chairman has also shown that she is prepared to punish banks for wrongdoing when warranted. In 2018, on Ms Yellen’s last day of work, the Fed asked Wells Fargo to replace four members of its 16-person board for failing to properly oversee the bank amid a fraud scandal.

But Ms Yellen’s experience at the Federal Reserve and her understanding of the banking system have allayed the concerns of some in the financial industry who might otherwise be wary that a new Democratic administration will quickly roll out onerous new rules. In meetings with financial services groups, Yellen said helping to shape and oversee the Biden administration’s economic relief efforts would initially be her top priority.

“She knows the banking system very well; she knows the strength and role of big banks, including the positive role they played over the past year, ”said Kevin Fromer, Managing Director of the Financial Services Forum, a lobby group that also met with Ms. Yellen. month.

Ms Yellen will have to recuse herself from treasury cases involving certain financial institutions following an ethics deal she signed during the disclosure of paid speeches she gave to large corporations and Wall Street banks Since leaving the Federal Reserve in a 2018 disclosure, which was released on New Years Eve, Ms. Yellen has earned more than $ 7 million in speech fees from companies such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Citadel.

Jeff Hauser, the revolving door project manager, called on Ms Yellen to publish the content of her speeches. But he said they were less troubling than some of the advisory work Mr. Biden’s other candidates have done in recent years for companies like Blackstone, a giant asset manager led by Stephen Schwarzman, and the company. Palantir data mining.

Biden’s transition team declined to release videos or transcripts of the speeches, noting they typically participate in unscripted discussions about the economy.

“Yellen did not make any prepared remarks during his speeches; most were casual conversations where she answered questions from a moderator and some were reporters, ”said Sean Savett, a spokesperson for Biden’s transition. “She has already signed ethics agreements governing her relationship with these entities and will of course comply with all appropriate challenges.”

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee might ask Ms Yellen about speaking fees, but Democrats are unlikely to press her on the issue.

“This is the worst economic crisis in 100 years, and no one is better qualified than Secretary-designate Yellen to lead an economic recovery,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who will become chairman of the committee. finances when Democrats take control of the Senate. “She deserves a lot of the credit for the longest economic expansion in our history, which lasted until the pandemic struck.”

The confirmation process should be relatively smooth. Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, currently the Republican Chairman of the Finance Committee, has spoken positively about Ms Yellen since Mr Biden selected her for the job.

Mr. Grassley said Friday that he had spoken to Ms Yellen and told her he had stressed the importance of cooperation with congressional oversight, and also expressed concern that tax increases and tighter regulations would slow the recovery economic.

In 2014, the Senate confirmed Ms. Yellen as President of the Fed by 56 votes to 26.

While Ms. Yellen, an economist by training, has an in-depth knowledge of monetary policy, the Treasury Department’s portfolio is vast. She will likely be faced with questions about America’s economic relationship with China, her stance on sanctions policy with respect to Iran, and her thoughts on fiscal policy. She might even be faced with questions about the thorny topics the Treasury deals with, like whether Harriet Tubman should be the face of the $ 20 bill, an Obama administration initiative that Mr. Mnuchin ditched.

Prior to Ms. Yellen’s hearing, several groups indicated that they were excited about a change in tone and staffing at the Treasury. Mr. Mnuchin managed the department with a small staff and was very receptive to executives from large banks and corporations.

Luz Urrutia, managing director of the Accion Opportunity Fund and the Opportunity Fund, said she left hopeful after meeting with Ms. Yellen last month about community development finance institutions. The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to cut funding for grant programs from the CDFI Fund, which the Treasury oversees. Ms. Yellen told the group that she wanted to expand the lending capacity of CDFIs so that they can better serve minority communities.

“They didn’t think CDFIs provided the level of impact and the capacity to serve these communities,” Ms. Urrutia said of the Trump administration. “This is a glaring difference between Yellen and the current administration.”

Travel News

Trump is renovating Mar-a-Lago, ostensibly preparing for life after the presidency.

President Trump is having construction in the final months of his presidency carried out in his living quarters in Mar-a-Lago, where he plans to reside full-time, two people said. Part of the job is updating the existing space, but also making what is a relatively small living space more accessible for the Trump family, they said.

A spokeswoman for Melania Trump, the first lady, did not respond to an email seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump also did not respond to a request for comment.

Construction work was first reported by ABC News. The work in progress highlights that Mr. Trump is preparing to live after the presidency, even as his campaign lawyers file a series of challenges aimed at delaying certification of the vote.

The Trumps filed in 2019 to change their residence from New York to Palm Beach, Florida, a social club the president has owned for more than two decades. (An earlier version of this news article incorrectly located the West Palm Beach club.

According to ABC News, the U.S. Secret Service has asked agents to move there, presumably for the post-presidency. But work to improve Mr Trump’s residential areas will raise more questions about whether he is misusing Mar-a-Lago, which is not supposed to serve as a full-time residence for anyone in the framework. an agreement with Palm Beach officials that allowed it to become a club in the 1990s.

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Warnock, preparing for a difficult second round of the Senate in Georgia, issues an announcement of attack on himself. (Spoiler alert: he doesn’t really hate puppies.)

Democrat Raphael Warnock, a candidate for the US Senate and heading for a runoff in January against Republican Kelly Loeffler in Georgia, braces for a wave of attack ads – preemptively releasing a video of him eating pizza with a knife and pretend to hate puppies.

Mr Warnock, the pastor who now holds the Martin Luther King Jr. chair at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, offered some comedic relief at a time when both sides were sweating the presidential race.

“Raphael Warnock eats pizza with fork and knife,” a voiceover says as the pastor, carrying a napkin to his chin, painstakingly consumes a pie (à la Bill de Blasio) in a 30-second video posted to his Twitter page. “Raphael Warnock once stepped over a crack in the sidewalk. Raphael Warnock even hates puppies.

The message has serious political purpose in a state that could host two rounds of Senate voting that could determine the balance of power in the upper chamber. At the end of Thursday, incumbent Senator David Perdue, a Republican, was below the 50% threshold needed to avoid a run-off against a powerful Democratic challenger, Jon Ossoff, in the other Georgia Senate race.

By the end of Thursday, Mr Warnock had garnered 32.7 percent of the vote compared to Ms Loeffler’s 26 percent. Ms Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat last year, made it to the run-off with more votes than conservative Republican Doug Collins in the multi-candidate special election.

“Prepare Georgia. Negative ads against us are coming, ”tweeted Mr. Warnock, pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. “But that will not stop us from fighting for a better future for Georgians and from focusing on the issues that matter.”

Ms Loeffler, on the other hand, took the NFL Films route in her celebratory “Let’s Do This, Georgia” video on Twitter, posting a two-minute video in which she walks, in triumphant slow motion, to a variety of events from campaign – including a rally with Mr. Trump where he called her a “great person.”

Travel News

Video: Washington is preparing for the election

TimesVideoWashington Boards Up Ahead of Election Businesses have been stranded in downtown Washington as a precaution for election day results that could cause trouble in the city.

Travel News

Washington, worried about the election, is preparing

WASHINGTON – Here’s an early and puzzling electoral indicator: plywood.

In recent days, the ominous precaution has been evident throughout downtown Washington, several blocks from the White House. The plywood has spread around Capitol Hill, along the nightlife corridors of 14th Street and Adams Morgan, and reached the suburbs. Storefronts and office buildings have been closed throughout the weekend and likely will be until it’s all over, when it does.

Plywood is never a comforting sign. It suggests chaos and riots, skirmishes and hurricanes. Elections? This is not how it should be here. Yes, the country is clearly on the cutting edge, and there have already been scattered reports of horrific episodes across the country: clashes at polling stations, peaceful tear gas protesters in North Carolina, supporters of President Trump shutting down. a New Jersey highway and reporting threats of possible militia violence in Georgia.

But there is something about seeing plywood in the nation’s capital that can seem especially scary.

Theoretically, it should be the shining city of orderly rituals, norms and traditions. A presidential election should be the time to celebrate lasting democracy and a peaceful transfer of power. But of course, we are in 2020.

On Sunday, several news agencies reported that government security officials would erect a “non-scalable” fence around the White House complex to secure the area. About 600 National Guard soldiers have been appointed to respond to a request from a governor of the country – or the secretary of the military in the District of Columbia – to support their response to the protests, Guard officials said.

The news evoked an immediate echo at the Lafayette Square spectacle in June, when riot officers and mounted police took out the protesters so Mr. Trump could hold a Bible for a photo op outside the Holy Episcopal Church. -Jeans.

Nothing in the phrase “peaceful transfer of power” is assured this week – neither the “peaceful” parties nor “transfer of power”.

Almost all of the CVS, Walgreens, and 7-Eleven within at least a mile or so of downtown appeared to be heavily fortified.

Perhaps this is the most baffling part: the idea that plywood, suddenly, feels like a normal feature of local architecture at times. That no one would flinch when they were warned that the next few days should be treated as a possible disaster.

Students at George Washington University received emails last week saying, “We suggest that you prepare for the Election Day period as you would for a hurricane or snowstorm.” Beneficiaries were urged to stock up on food and supplies.

There have been other such notices. New Zealand Ambassador to Washington Rosemary Banks has sent a note in recent weeks to embassy staff reminding them to keep 14 days of food and essentials at home. Storage has been embassy protocol since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, but in that memo, the ambassador said there was a new concern: the prospect of violent protests around the election could mean that staff may need to avoid venturing onto the street.

The media were also preparing. Reporters at the Wall Street Journal’s Washington office received gas masks and orange bicycle helmets marked “press”. Local TV stations were showing “brace yourself” segments. Hotlines and websites have been set up.

Security details have been tightened around the private homes of senior administration officials. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post posted on twitter a photograph of the exterior of Attorney General William P. Barr’s home in suburban Virginia as it was picketed by supporters of Mr. Trump. They were unhappy that the president was not doing more to secure the imprisonment of his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who leads the polls.

Several restaurants and retail outlets near the White House have posted signs saying they will remain closed indefinitely “as a precaution,” which could just as easily be the official slogan for 2020.

At Puglisi Hair Cuts, about half a mile west of the White House, Abel Gaona said business was already slow because of the pandemic. Mr Gaona, a hairdresser, said he was concerned the planks above his windows – which the building’s property manager installed last week – would make people believe Puglisi was closed, driving business away remaining.

“All barbers, when we’re not working we don’t make money,” Gaona said Monday morning, waiting for his first client to come in.

Still, he said the plan was to close the barber shop on Wednesday, fearing the elections would lead to violence. “I guess when people don’t like whoever wins, they’re going to protest,” Gaona said.

It was difficult to go anywhere without meeting the sign that it was not a normal election week.

This included social media (obviously). Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, reminded his Twitter followers Monday morning that the country was entering an “unusual” period and that its opponents could take advantage of it.

“Our intelligence community warned that the period immediately before and after polling day was going to be particularly volatile,” Warner said. wrote.

Reporting was provided by Mark Mazzetti, Eric Schmitt, Julian E. Barnes and Christopher Flavelle of Washington.