Trumps accused of treating White House staff like ‘concierge’

James Crump
·3-min read
<p>Donald Trump speaks to the press outside of the White House on 30 October 2020 in Washington, DC</p> ((Getty Images))

Donald Trump speaks to the press outside of the White House on 30 October 2020 in Washington, DC

((Getty Images))

Donald Trump has been accused of treating White House staff like a “concierge” service during his time in the executive mansion.

Jonathan Lee, who served in the calligrapher’s office in the White House until he was fired in 2017, told The New Yorker that the former president and his family treated staff like a “twenty-four-hour concierge desk”.

Mr Lee, who served in a political role under the former president, Barack Obama, made the claim in a feature about the role of White House staff that was published on Wednesday.

Mr Trump bragged on numerous occasions about the services available to him at the White House and even had a button installed on the Resolute desk that when pressed would call for a staff member to bring him a diet coke on a silver platter.

Other former staff members who had worked in the White House under several different administrations told The New Yorker that there was a marked difference between their roles under the Obamas and the Trumps.

The former employees said that Mr Obama’s family, who had never had housekeepers or a staff before moving to the White House, kept distance from the butlers as they craved privacy, while the Trumps used the services available to them.

Staffers also claimed that there were other differences under Mr Trump, as overtime pay became more limited, while his chief usher Timothy Harleth made changes to how the executive mansion was run.

Mr Harleth reportedly managed the White House more like a hotel than the official residence for the president and hired several former colleagues from the Trump International Hotel and the Mandarin Oriental.

Former colleagues told The New Yorker that they also felt Mr Harleth was hostile to employees who had worked at the White House over several administrations.

“He saw us as dinosaurs ... recalcitrant, most likely to complain, most likely to resist change,” one worker said. “There was a real condescension on his part for the people who had been there a long time,” they added.

Mr Harleth was fired shortly before Joe Biden took office on 20 January, and the president has not yet hired a new chief usher to replace him. It is currently unclear whether he was fired by the current president or Mr Trump.

Despite changing the role of workers in the White House, staff members told The New Yorker that they were sad to see him go, with one employee saying that he was the “most competent and least partisan of the last three we’ve had”.

Although it is too early to know how Mr Biden will treat staff members, some workers were impressed with him on his first day in the White House because he made sure to greet all the employees.

One staffer explained: “We were all very flattered. Usually we meet them in the first days or first weeks, but never in the first minutes.”

Speaking at a CNN Town Hall earlier in the month, Mr Biden also expressed discomfort at being waited on at the White House, saying: “I find myself extremely self-conscious,” adding: “I was raised in a way that you didn’t look for anybody to wait on you.”

The Independent has contacted The Trump Organisation and the White House for comment.

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