A thorough cleaning is part of the every-four-years tradition that comes with the outgoing president and his family swapping White House living with the incoming president and family.
The delicate and highly choreographed event of packing up and moving out, and unpacking and moving in, done by dozens of prepped and trained staff and movers, typically occurs in the six-hour window when both the exiting and entering presidents and their spouses attend Inauguration Day ceremonies on Capitol Hill. By the time the new president and first lady return to the White House, all of their stuff will have been moved in and ready to go – down to a refrigerator stocked with their favorite foods and the master bathroom equipped with their preferred shampoo.
But, like most things Trump administration, this January 20 won’t be very traditional.
Before the Bidens move in, the White House will first undergo a Covid-19 cleansing, top to bottom, from East Wing to West Wing. According to federal contract data reviewed by CNN, the total for the amplified White House inauguration deep clean right now hovers near a half-million dollars.
This includes $127,000 for what one government order refers to as “2021 Inaugural Cleaning,” bid out to Didlake, a Virginia-based business that employs people with disabilities for jobs including janitorial and housekeeping services. That’s separate from a $44,000 order for carpet cleaning and the $115,000 purchase agreement for “2021 Presidential Inauguration and Transition Carpet Replacement and Installation to correct the current floor condition of selected interior floors for various offices,” within the East Wing, West Wing and Executive Office Building, according to the description.
In traditional administration-swaps, the bulk of the cleaning, while thorough, is done predominantly by White House staff – housekeepers, butlers, ushers – and upkeep such as electrical fixes and small maintenance jobs completed by White House workers, of which there are typically 90 to 100 in roles that range from pastry cooks to florists to plumbers.
However, this time around, the incoming Biden administration wanted to ensure that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which has been a hot spot of at least three Covid-19 breakouts, gets the sort of scrub-down a pandemic deserves, according to a White House official who spoke with CNN on the condition of anonymity.
“The idea that they would just move in seems unlikely,” said the official, who was not aware of the specific contract numbers but was aware there were additional measures being taken after the Trumps leave the White House.
The big day
President Donald Trump tweeted last week that he will not attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration and CNN has reported the Trumps are scheduled to leave Washington the day prior, on January 19. Biden is planning to spend the night before his inauguration in a Washington hotel, people familiar with the plans say, and will move to the White House after the thorough clean.
“People tend to forget how big this building is,” said the official; the White House is some 55,000 square feet.
The Biden transition team did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment about the additional cleaning contracts.
Additional inaugural cleaning contracts, which were all made though the Public Building Service within the General Service Administration, include more than $29,000 to clean the curtains in the East Wing, West Wing and Eisenhower Executive Office Building and $53,000 for painting and wall coverings.
Typically, the window of time on Inauguration Day is not enough for updating paint and wallpaper around the house, but as there is more time now, thanks to what appears to be the Trumps’ early departure on January 19, the walls will get refreshed. A contract for $37,975 was awarded to an Annapolis, Maryland, company for the removal of trash and recycling, “per the scope of work in relation to the 2021 Inauguration.”
Another $50,000 has been contracted for overtime pay for the movers.
Melania Trump already making moves
Melania Trump has been moving items for almost two months, according to multiple sources. She has already completed several shipments to Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach, Florida, private club where the first couple is expected to reside. She has also put much of the family’s furniture and décor into storage. One of the sources estimates Trump is “about 50%” packed from the White House, a job she began in earnest in the weeks following Election Day.
Despite the national turmoil, two sources confirm to CNN that much of her attention has been on her photo album collection, a hobby she has maintained for more than a decade, clipping and creating large, leather-bound albums embossed with the dates and occasions of each of the contents.
One of the sources familiar with her penchant for photo albums said the first lady has utilized the services of her official White House photographer, Andrea Hanks, to help her complete the personal projects. Hanks is a government employee and her request for overtime hours has riled colleagues in the White House photo office.
The East Wing did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
The first lady’s chief of staff and spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, resigned last Wednesday following the insurrection at the Capitol. Melania Trump has not been seen publicly since returning from her Florida home to the White House on December 31.
Bidens moving in
Meanwhile, the Biden transition team has already been in touch with White House chief usher Timothy Harleth, two sources told CNN. Harleth was hired by Melania Trump in June 2017; he was previously working at the Trump International Hotel Washington as manager of rooms. One White House source said Harleth is covertly helping the Biden team navigate the moving-in process, as the tradition of the current first lady welcoming the incoming first lady never happened under Trump – Melania Trump still has yet to reach out to Jill Biden.
As such, communication between staffs on the two opposing sides is nonexistent, where prior administrations, even those on opposite sides of the political aisle, have by now had lengthy and in-depth discussion about moving logistics.
It is not clear, for example, whether the Biden family’s moving trucks will be allowed to haul the President-elect’s beloved Peloton from his Wilmington, Delaware, home into the White House residence. The standalone bikes typically have video cameras that connect to the internet, which could be one of few minor hiccups.
Past presidents’ high-tech gadgets have typically required security vetting and retrofitting – especially when they connect to the internet or cell networks. The Washington Post reported in February 2019 that Trump had a $50,000, room-sized golf simulator installed in the White House – replacing a less sophisticated simulator installed by President Barack Obama. At the time, the price for the fully set-up Trump simulator from TrackMan, which has golf simulators at multiple Trump properties, started at around $50,000.
High-end simulators such as TrackMan’s often connect to the internet and have sensors or cameras. Emails from the US Secret Service obtained by CNN through the Freedom of Information Act show that agency personnel, including a protective detail liaison for the Secret Service’s Technical Security Division, exchanged “notes” and “tech info” on the TrackMan golf simulator in the months prior to its reported installation.
Previous presidents didn’t have such high-tech problems. President George W. Bush asked for workout equipment, including an elliptical machine and dumbbells, to be installed in a poolside cabana steps from the Oval Office, and a fold-up treadmill to be placed aboard Air Force One. Old-school enough not to raise security flags.
No word whether Biden’s Peloton will get the same scrutiny.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.