It's no Trump Tower, but White House has 'beautiful' phones

US President Donald Trump posing with American labour leaders in the Oval Office on Jan 23, 2017.
US President Donald Trump posing with American labour leaders in the Oval Office on Jan 23, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NYTIMES) - President Donald Trump, who flew across the country on hundreds of nights during the 2016 campaign to sleep in his own bed, has now spent five straight days in the unfamiliar surroundings of the White House. His aides said privately that he seemed apprehensive about the move to his new home, but Mr Trump has discovered there is a lot he likes.

"These are the most beautiful phones I've ever used in my life," he said in a telephone interview on Tuesday (Jan 24) 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 first in the residence, and later 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, Mr Trump, who does not read books, is able to end his evenings with plenty of television.

 

In between, Mr Trump 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 Mr 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, 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," Mr Trump said.

Among modern American presidents, Mr 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 an elevator 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 - Mr George W. Bush in particular said he missed the outdoors - but Mr Trump can go for days without breathing in fresh outside air.

His wife Melania went back to New York on Sunday night with their 10-year-old son, Barron, and so Mr 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 he appeared to be reacting to Bill O'Reilly's show on Fox News, which was airing a feature on crime in Chicago.

At 9.25pm, Mr Trump posted on Twitter:

In the interview, Mr Trump demurred when asked about whether it was hard having his family away from him, and he pointed to Thursday, when Mrs Trump and Barron, who is finishing the school year in New York, are expected to return.

"They'll come down on weekends," Mr Trump said. "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 news media and made numerous false statements about Mr Trump's inaugural crowds in the White House briefing room on Saturday.

Mr Trump, his chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and his chief of staff Reince Priebus watched Mr Spicer's do-over on Monday while eating lunch in the West Wing dining room, where the President murmured approval of Mr Spicer's Monday performance and called his press secretary a "superstar".

His first breakfast at the White House was on 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 types of snacks that Mr Trump had on his private plane, including Lay's potato chips.

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. Mr Trump has not brought along any household staff from Trump Tower, 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 Mr Trump's aides as inspiration - to hang in the Oval Office.

"Now, I'm working," he 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.

Mr 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 Feb 3.

Until then, he is breaking in the residence, which Mrs Trump is still working on decorating.

"It's a beautiful residence, it's very elegant," Mr Trump said, deploying one of his highest forms of praise.

"There's something very special when you know that Abraham Lincoln slept there,"he noted. "The Lincoln Bedroom, you know, was his office, and the suite where I'm staying is actually where he slept."

Mr 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," he said. "There's a lot of history."