WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump departs for a 17-day “working vacation” at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Friday, and while he’s gone, the White House is getting some TLC.
Just like an episode of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper,” the minute Trump leaves, workers will begin around-the-clock renovations to the West Wing, including structural repairs to address a ceiling leak, HVAC work and repairs to the South Portico steps on the South Lawn. Additionally, renovations to the Navy Mess kitchen, the West Wing lower lobby, the IT system and generic cosmetic upgrades including fresh paint, carpet and curtains will be completed before his return later this month.
A White House official confirms the East Wing will also undergo infrastructural improvements.
All of the upcoming improvements were approved during the Obama administration following an initial round of renovations.
Around the White House grounds, there were early signs of the upcoming work on Friday. A dozen PODS storage units lined the West Executive Drive between the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building — starting Friday afternoon, since practically everything in the West Wing will be loaded into storage. A West Wing hallway normally filled with framed photographs of the administration was eerily empty, save for several nails in the wall. Boxes were set outside press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ office.
Workers in neon vests began to dig up parts of the North Lawn.
The President denied earlier this week that he called the White House “a real dump” after he was quoted saying so to several members and staffers at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey in a Sports Illustrated article.
Trump tweeted: “I love the White House, one of the most beautiful buildings (homes) I have ever seen. But Fake News said I called it a dump – TOTALLY UNTRUE.”
But another White House official later clarified to CNN that the while the President enjoys the White House residence, he has often remarked on the poor condition the West Wing is in.
He has a point: The West Wing is in need of some upkeep.
And while the President has lamented information leaks coming from his West Wing, there are also actual leaks there. After flash-flooding in the greater Washington area last week, the ceilings dripped in three separate spots in the Lower Press area, emitting a “foul odor,” per one witness. Staffers moved multiple trash cans to catch the dripping.
Although the HVAC systems are 27 years old, they are constantly running.
“Due to the 24/7, 365-day use a year, the estimated age of the system based off of usage is 81 years old,” deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday.
The South Portico steps haven’t been restored in 64 years, Walters added.
The Oval Office also has a persistent common house fly problem, a distraction during key meetings with senior officials. There are bug zappers in the West Wing to combat the chronic issue, which has not gone away.
And an empty West Wing makes technological improvements much less disruptive — just ask David Recordon, the director of White House IT in the Obama White House.
“During the last summer vacation @BarackObama took, we replaced hundreds of phones throughout the house. Another before, we deployed Wi-Fi :)” Recordon tweeted.
Besides the small group of aides traveling to New Jersey with the President, West Wing staffers won’t take a vacation themselves while the renovations are completed: they’re just moving next door to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
“All of us in lower press will miss seeing you guys every day, but we’re definitely looking forward to the much-needed renovations in the HVAC system, as well as throughout the rest of the West Wing,” Walters said.