Life in the White House bubble? Trump’s had practice
Washington — For nearly the entire week since he became president-elect, Donald Trump has been holed up in his gilded New York skyscraper. A steady stream of visitors has come to him, flooding through metal detectors and getting whisked up to Trump’s offices and penthouse residence.
The unusual arrangement has left Trump looking like the missing player in his own transition planning. He’s left it to aides to explain the increasingly strained process and given space for allies jockeying for top jobs to set the tone during a crucial phase.
“President-elect Trump is there receiving calls from different people. He has different meetings, interviews,” Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said earlier this week. “We’ve really just been ensconced in Trump Tower trying to form a government.”
Advisers have provided few specific details of Trump’s schedule, leaving journalists gathered in the lobby of Trump Tower to piece together clues based on who is seen entering and exiting the building. He emerged briefly Tuesday night for a private dinner with family, but his team has given no indication of when he may next appear in public.
Trump has long lived in a bubble of his own creation, a situation that could prepare him for the insular, security-shrouded cocoon that awaits him at the White House.
Unlike President Barack Obama, who flew commercial and lived in a dingy Washington apartment within about a year of taking office, Trump has already spent decades living an unusually cloistered life. While Obama often bemoans his inability to take a walk or enjoy a meal at a sidewalk cafe, Trump doesn’t appear to have much of an affinity for either.
“The reason my hair looks so neat all the time is because I don’t have to deal with the elements very often,” Trump wrote in his 2004 book, “How To Get Rich. “I live in the building where I work. I take an elevator from my bedroom to my office. The rest of the time, I’m either in my stretch limousine, my private jet, my helicopter, or my private club in Palm Beach, Florida.”
Indeed, Trump hadn’t been seen outdoors since Thursday, when he traveled to Washington to meet with Obama and Republican congressional leaders. He left for dinner Tuesday without his press corps, which did not witness him during the outing.
Trump was a fixture on the New York social scene when he was younger, but those close to him say he’d become more of a homebody even before he began running, preferring to camp out in front of the television at night watching cable news. He spends nearly all of his time at his properties, including Trump Tower in New York, his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, or at Mar-a-Lago, his exclusive South Florida club. If he travels outside of those locales, it’s often to a place with a Trump property nearby.
As president, Trump will be constantly surrounded by a pack of Secret Service agents, replacing the team of private security guards who protected him before he ran. He’ll fly on Air Force One, giving his Trump-branded jet a break. And he’ll be restricted from driving anything other than a golf cart, though he’s said to rarely drive himself anyway.
“To me, a great luxury is for me just to get into a car by myself and drive,” Trump said last year.
The insular world of the White House is often even more of an adjustment for the president’s family. First lady Michelle Obama has notoriously chafed at the restrictions on her movement, speaking longingly about wanting to simply be able to get into a car and roll down the windows.
But Melania Trump sounded sanguine about what’s ahead, noting that she’d had time to get used to the bubble during her husband’s presidential campaign.
“It will just continue,” Mrs. Trump said in an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes. “It’s another level, but it will continue.”
Trump aides say the businessman does plan to move to the White House — “The president is going to live in Washington,” top adviser Rudy Giuliani said Monday — but Trump is expected to continue spending time at his exclusive Mar-a-Lago, which the property’s original owner, Marjorie Merriweather Post, willed to the U.S. government when she died in 1973 to serve as a retreat for presidents and visiting dignitaries. It has sometimes been dubbed the “winter White House.”
Members of the club, where he often spends winter weekends, describe Trump as a man of routine, who spends most of his time at the club or at his nearby golf courses, eating, mingling with guests, working — and keeping an eye on his employees’ work.
While Trump was once known as a New York playboy who stuffed his calendar with galas and events, Lee Lipton, a Mar-a-Lago member for years, said that it’s rare to see Trump venture to an event off-site these days.
“He said, ‘Why should I go anywhere else?’” Lipton recalled Trump once explaining. “’I have the best food in Palm Beach.’”