Trump on life in the White House: ‘These are beautiful phones’
US president spends mornings watching cable television before meetings begin at 9am
US president Donald Trump and his chief of staff Reince Priebus in the Oval Office of the White House. “I’ve had people come in, they walk in here and they just want to stare for a long period of time,” he says. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP
US president Donald Trump, who flew across the country on hundreds of nights during the 2016 election campaign to sleep in his own bed, has now spent six straight days in the unfamiliar surroundings of the White House. His aides said privately he seemed apprehensive about the move to his new home, but Trump has discovered there is a lot he likes.
“These are the most beautiful phones I’ve ever used in my life,” Trump said in a telephone interview on Tuesday evening. “The world’s most secure system,” he added, laughing. “The words just explode in the air.” What he meant was that no one was listening in and recording his words.
The president sat at his desk – the one used by former presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and John F Kennedy, among others – at the end of his fourth full day in office.
His mornings, he said, are spent as they were in Trump Tower. He rises before 6am, watches television tuned to a cable channel in a small dining room in the West Wing, and looks through the morning newspapers: the New York Times, the New York Post and now the Washington Post.
But his meetings now begin at 9am, earlier than they used to, which significantly curtails his television time. Still, Trump, who does not read books, is able to end his evenings with plenty of television. In between, he signs executive orders in the Oval Office and has meetings in the West Wing.
“They have a lot of board rooms,” he said of the White House, an apparent reference to the cabinet room and the Roosevelt room.
The White House is the only property that Trump has slept in that is more famous than one of his own, and he seems in awe. Although he made his name building extravagant, gold-gilded properties, the new president has marvelled to aides about the splendour of the White House and the lengths he must walk to retrieve something from a far-flung room.
His preference during the day is to work in the Oval Office. And to stare at it, still. So do his staff members and relatives. “I’ve had people come in, they walk in here and they just want to stare for a long period of time,” Trump said.
Among modern American presidents, Trump may be best situated to work where he lives. For decades, he has lived in a penthouse apartment on the 58th floor of Trump Tower and taken a lift down to the 26th floor, where he has a corner office with views of Central Park. Many presidents have complained of being cooped up inside the White House – George W Bush in particular said he missed the outdoors – but Trump can go for days without breathing in fresh outside air.
Trump’s wife, Melania, went back to New York on Sunday night with their 10-year-old son, Barron, and so Trump has the television – and his old, unsecured Android phone, to the protests of some of his aides – to keep him company. That was the case after 9pm on Tuesday, when Trump appeared to be reacting on Twitter to the Bill O’Reilly show on Fox News, which was airing a feature on crime in Chicago.
At 9.25pm, Trump posted: “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!”
In the interview, Trump demurred when asked about whether it was hard having his family away from him, and pointed to Thursday, when Melania Trump and Barron, who is finishing the school year in New York, were expected to return. “They’ll come down on weekends,” said Trump. “She’ll come down on Thursdays and stay.”
He said he was enjoying himself so far, despite his visible displeasure with the coverage of his inauguration and the first performance of his press secretary, Sean Spicer, who shouted at the media and made numerous false statements about Trump’s inaugural crowds in the White House briefing room Saturday.
Trump and his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, and his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, watched Spicer’s do-over Monday while eating lunch in the West Wing dining room, where the president murmured approval of Spicer’s Monday performance and called his press secretary a “superstar”.
His first breakfast at the White House was last Saturday morning – a buffet in the residence spread with fresh fruit, pastries and other treats – where his adult children and their families joined him. The kitchen has been stocked with the same type of snacks that Trump had on his private plane, including Lay’s potato chips and Doritos.
His oldest daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser, stayed with him in the White House through Sunday. They left for their own new home at the end of the weekend to get their children ready for their new schools. Trump has not brought along any new household staff, an aide said.
The president spent a part of Tuesday poring over artwork from the White House collections, settling on a portrait of Andrew Jackson – America’s first populist president, who has been invoked by Trump’s aides as an inspiration – to hang in the Oval Office.
“Now, I’m working,” Trump said in the interview, punctuating his focus by cataloguing the work of the day: an executive order restarting the Keystone XL pipeline and his plans for border-related actions over the next days.
Trump is in the meantime pondering his first break away from the White House, a potential trip to Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, possibly on the weekend of February 3rd. Until then, he is breaking in the residence, which Melania Trump is still working on decorating.
“It’s a beautiful residence, it’s very elegant,” the president said, deploying one of his highest forms of praise. “There’s something very special when you know that Abraham Lincoln slept there,” Trump said. “The Lincoln Bedroom, you know, was his office, and the suite where I’m staying is actually where he slept.”
Trump was referring to the White House master bedroom, which is now his own. “Knowing all of that, it’s different, than, you know, just pure elegance and room size,” Trump said. “There’s a lot of history.”
New York Times