Great Britain

Bidens will be greeted to White House by former Trump hotel worker in historic snub by president

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania are eschewing the tradition of meeting the incoming first family – instead leaving Joe and Jill Biden to be greeted by White House chief usher Timothy Harleth.

Traditionally, the outgoing president and first lady invite their successors into the White House for coffee ahead of the inauguration and travel to the ceremony together.

Indeed, Mr and Mrs Trump were hosted by former president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama following a bitterly fought election campaign that saw Mr Trump lambast the Obama administration.

Nonetheless, the Obamas hosted the Trumps in what was no doubt an awkward encounter but continued a tradition for incoming presidents that the current occupant of the White House does not intend to uphold.

The president will also not be attending Mr Biden’s inauguration, making him one of just four outgoing presidents who have declined to attend the ceremony of their successor. 

Mr Trump has also declined to invite Mr Biden to the traditional Oval Office meeting ahead of Inauguration Day. And in a further snub to the Bidens, Melania Trump has not given Jill Biden a tour of the family wing White House and has reportedly not been in touch with her at all.

“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th," Mr Trump tweeted prior to his social media accounts being blocked.

Instead, it is believed that Mr Trump will hold an early morning ceremony for himself that is expected to feature a 21-gun salute. He is then expected to leave Washington DC along with Melania – the pair are to take up residency at Mar-a-Lago, the resort Mr Trump has previously referred to as the Winter White House.

Meanwhile the Bidens will be welcomed to the White House by Mr Harleth, who was employed in the role by the Trumps in 2017. Mr Harleth, who was the seventh person to serve in the role, took over from outgoing chief usher Angella Reid.

Mr Harleth had previously worked for Mr Trump in a different role – as the director of rooms at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

Although White House chief ushers are “the first to welcome new presidents to the White House on inauguration day and the last to bid them farewell at the end of their tenure”, according to White House history, Mr Trump’s refusal to be part of the welcome for Mr Biden has not been viewed favourably in some corners of the Capitol.

A former Clinton administration official told CNN: "I recall both interactions that then first lady Hillary Clinton had with Barbara Bush in 1992 when she first arrived at the White House, and in 2000 when she hosted Laura Bush.

"Both were after contentious campaigns and both visits could not have been more gracious and welcoming."

In contrast with Mr Trump, Vice President Mike Pence has announced that he will be attending the inauguration, and has spoken with his successor Kamala Harris to offer his congratulations. Ms Harris will be moving in to Number One Observatory Circle when she takes office, although it is unclear as yet whether Mr Pence will greet her as she arrives.

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