Trading Trump Tower for the White House: US president-elect wants to spend time in New York

Donald Trump (right) walks with his wife Melania before announcing that he is running for president of the United States, during an event at Trump Tower in New York. PHOTO: EPA

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - President-elect Donald Trump won the White House with an outsider's populist promise to "drain the swamp" of Washington.

Now, as he prepares to assume the presidency, an open question remains about the capital he repeatedly spurned: Just how much is he willing to become a part of it?

Mr Trump, a homebody who often flew several hours late at night during the campaign so he could wake up in his own bed in Trump Tower, is talking with his advisers about how many nights a week he will spend in the White House. He has told them he would like to do what he is used to, which is spending time in New York when he can.

The future first lady, Mrs Melania Trump, expects to move to Washington. But the couple's 10-year-old son, Barron, is midway through a school year in New York, and it is unclear when the move would happen.

The questions reflect what Mr Trump's advisers described as the president-elect's coming to grips with the fact that his life is about to change radically. They say that Mr Trump, who was shocked when he won the election, might spend most of the week in Washington, much like members of Congress, and return to Trump Tower or his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, or his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach on weekends.

Hanging on to the familiar for presidents-elect and their families is not unusual. There were early questions about whether Mrs Michelle Obama would leave Chicago and move to the White House in early 2009 and disrupt her daughters' school years, but the whole family moved in on the day of the inaugural.

Mr Trump's advisers hold out the possibility that the president-elect may spend more time in the White House as he grows less overwhelmed and more comfortable in the job.

Still, Mr Trump has spent the past three decades, for the most part, cosseted within Trump Tower. His apartment is on the 58th floor, and a designated elevator takes him from there to his office on the 26th floor.

He wakes at 5 o'clock most mornings, reads The New York Post, The New York Times and a handful of other newspapers, and tunes into the morning television news shows. In the final months of the campaign, he would hang around his apartment until about 10am, joining his aides in the office later.

Mr Trump's affection for his penthouse apartment runs deep, as his biographer, Mr Michael D'Antonio, learned when Mr Trump invited him inside the three-story unit in 2014 for an extended interview.

Mr Trump reveled in recalling the challenges required to design and build the apartment, decorated in 24-karat gold and marble in the Louis XIV style, saying he simply wanted to see if such an ambitious undertaking could be accomplished. He described it less as a home than a tribute to his own self-image.

"I really wanted to see if it could be done," Mr Trump said at the time, as he showed Mr D'Antonio around the apartment. "This is a very complex unit. Building this unit, if you look at the columns and the carvings, this building, this unit was harder than building the building itself."

Yet after meeting with President Barack Obama on Thursday (Nov 10) and touring the White House, mr Trump, according to two people briefed on his thinking, was taken with that building overall and marveled at the neoclassical architecture and history.

Returning home to Trump Tower from the White House may not be Mr Trump's only embrace of the familiar. His aides say he has also expressed interest in continuing to hold the large rallies that were a staple of his candidacy. He likes the instant gratification and adulation that the cheering crowds provide, and his aides are discussing how they might accommodate his demand.

"I think Trump has discovered that these rallies are tremendous opportunities for him to get his message out," said Mr Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media, a conservative website. "It's actually sort of old-fashioned, that you want to actually meet people and press the flesh with him."

Not least, Mr Trump is finding Twitter a familiar comfort, although it is unclear if he will be the first president to wholly control his own Twitter account once he is in the White House.

"I know they're willing to be unorthodox and want to be true to themselves and not fall into a habit of let's just follow precedent on what's been done," said Mr Mike DuHaime, an adviser to Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who supported Mr Trump shortly after ending his own White House bid and who stepped back as the head of the president-elect's transition team on Friday (Nov 11).

Mr Trump's aides got him to agree to restrict his use of Twitter in the waning days of his campaign, but on Thursday (Nov 10), his second day as president-elect, Mr Trump posted the kind of Twitter missive for which he has become known: a message complaining that "professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting".

"Very unfair!" he wrote.

Mr Trump checked himself later when he offered a more unifying message: "Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud."

For now, Mr Trump remains in Trump Tower receiving congratulations, thanking those who stayed with him and venting to associates his lingering grievances with the news media over coverage of the campaign.

He has stayed in touch with reporters at Fox News, checking in to ask about ratings and, as he has done for months, polling people about whom he should put in top jobs.

One constant is that the small cadre of aides and advisers who signed on with the campaign in its early, long-shot days will probably have jobs in the administration, should they want them. They have been told that all of the campaign staff will be taken care of.

"It was such a small operation and it's such a big government, so it's very natural they're going to look to the people who went with them early and stuck with them through thick and thin," Mr DuHaime said.

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