Want to get a peek inside the Trump White House? Keep checking Twitter and Instagram, because the more traditional method – a formal White House tour – isn’t an option.
The White House Visitors Office typically halts tours during presidential transitions, as the new president brings in staff to run the operation, but the three-weeks-and-counting lull under the new administration is unusually long.
That’s not lost on members of Congress, who handle constituent requests for tours. On Sunday, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, cheekily tweeted at “whoever monitors twitter at WH for businessman president Trump” asking when the tours would resume. Making the request more urgent than your typical senatorial inquiry, he added, “Mrs G wants to know.”
Grassley and his wife aren’t the only ones wondering.
At least two dozen lawmakers have signed a letter circulating on Capitol Hill urging the swift reopening of the office that handles tours. “This time-honored tradition of allowing visitors into the White House was started by Thomas Jefferson in 1805, and previous administrations have been quick to reopen the White House doors to the public, even doing so the day after the Inauguration,” the letter reads. “Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama all appointed a White House Visitors Office Director before being sworn in, and had reopened the White House to the public at this point.”
Many of the signatories have hundreds of requests piling up.
A spokesman for Rep. Gerald E. Connolly said constituents of the Democrat’s Northern Virginia district submit about 100 tour requests a week. “At this point, we’re telling them that we’ll let them know,” he said.
And it’s not just would-be gawking tourists who can’t get a glimpse – the Trump White House has been unusually closed off. Entertaining, Trump-style, has included family meals in the State Dining Room, a screening of the animated movie “Finding Dory” and a private lunch Monday for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In contrast to the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations – which all hosted hundreds of well-wishers in the days after an inauguration – the Trumps have so far limited invitees to close family and supporters.
On the White House website, a warning notes that “White House Tours will be temporarily unavailable until the Trump Administration is ready to begin processing Public Tour requests.”
So when will that take place?
The White House has yet to announce a new head of the visitors office, but look to Lindsay Reynolds, the chief of staff to first lady Melania Trump. When Reynolds, who was associate director of the visitors office under President George W. Bush, was named to the East Wing post, she pledged to make tours a priority.
“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,” she said in a Feb. 1 statement.
A spokeswoman for Melania Trump did not immediately respond to a query about when that would happen.
But it sounds like when the doors do open to the public again, they could be in for some improvements. Per Reynolds: “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.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Emily Heil