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Speculation has been strong regarding Melania Trump’s plans to move to the White House. The “will she or won’t she” coverage has seemingly changed by the minute, first declaring she would be staying in New York because of her 10-year-old son Barron’s school semester, then clarifying that plans were officially in place for her relocate to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. But those plans remain officially unconfirmed, with insiders insisting that the first lady will never move to Washington, D.C.
As it turns out, there’s an unexpected side effect to all this waffling — it’s affecting those who wish to tour the White House. It’s always been a hot ticket. The White House saw up to 6,000 visitors on average per day in the ’80s. And in the ’90s, there was such demand that there was a problem with scalpers.
Historically, White House visits have been suspended only for extraordinary reasons, such as in the days surrounding Sept. 11, and for nine months in 2013 during the Obama administration because of the ongoing budget sequestration. And while it’s customary for tours to be suspended during a presidential transition, it’s not usually for this long. As USA Today points out, tours tend to resume quickly — in some cases, tours have restarted the day after an inauguration — but the suspension under the Trump administration is unusually long.
So why has there been a holdup? Because Melania has been taking her time in selecting staff. As she said in a statement, “I am putting together a professional and highly experienced team, which will take time to do properly.” And though she found her chief of staff in Lindsay Reynolds as of Feb. 1, Reynolds says the tours will remain on hold for at least another couple of weeks.
“I am working to ensure that the White House Visitors Office is fully staffed and operational and ready to accept tour requests for the public in the coming weeks after a traditional temporary closure during the transition period,” Reynolds said in a statement. “In the meantime, we are using this time to tend to routine maintenance, updates, and renovations along the tour route to ensure the guest experience is top-notch.”
Fortunately, Melania just appointed Anna Cristina Niceta Lloyd as social secretary, whose job it is to organize the White House visits. As CNN reports, tour requests have been piling up, and people who call the information line looking for more insight are told only that the White House hopes to relaunch them soon.
To some, this serves as another example of how the Trump administration is creating distance between the public and its government. Although the president lives at the White House, it has always been considered the property of the people. Before leaving office, President Barack Obama said, “Michelle and I always joke, ‘We’re just renters here.’ The owners are the American people and all those invested in creating this amazing place with so much history.” More than 3 million visitors toured the White House during Obama’s time in office.
Until tours resume, Melania has tapped interior designer Tham Kannalikham to redecorate the private living quarters of the presidential residence. “Mrs. Trump has a deep appreciation for the historical aspects of the White House and [for] Tham’s traditional design and expertise,” Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, senior adviser to the first lady, told WWD. “They are focusing on a seamless integration of elegance and comfort into where the president, the first lady, and [their son] Barron will be spending their family time and calling [it] their home.”
Meanwhile, Melania’s husband continues to roam the White House halls in the middle of the night in his bathrobe (which he may or may not own), familiarizing himself with his new surroundings. But someday soon, those halls may once again be open to the public.
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