Will President Trump Actually Live at the White House?

November 17th 2016

Mike Rothschild

Donald Trump ran for president as a Washington outsider seeking to "drain the swamp" of corruption, and now that he's the president-elect, it's natural to wonder how much time Trump will actually spend in the town he railed against.

The New York Times reported that Trump has spoken with advisors about how often he'll have to spend the night there.

Trump has preferred to lodge at Trump Tower in Manhattan or his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Trump would return to his Trump Tower penthouse during the campaign whenever possible, flying back and forth at all hours of the night just to be able to sleep in his own bed. This is something he'd prefer to keep doing, the Times reported.

So is Trump going to live at the White House? Does he even have to?

From a legal standpoint, he doesn't. No law requires the president to spend a majority of his time living in the White House.

But it makes sense from a practicality standpoint, as well as for security and expediency. Every president has, though a few have delayed moving in after the previous occupant died.

The White House is designed specifically to be a secure location for the president to live and work, and intense security has to be put in place whenever he leaves it.

The president can in theory do his job from anywhere, as long as the right personnel can accompany him, the security arrangements are vetted, and the needed technology is available.

Several presidents have spent large amounts of time away from the White House.

Almost every president has had a summer or winter residence to which he decamped for relaxation or to avoid dreary Washington winters.

The office even comes with a second home: the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland.

President Obama at Camp David

These are isolated retreats that can be closed off to traffic, expanded to allow for needed security and offices (paid for by the Secret Service), and kept free of air traffic.

Examples abound of presidents spending long periods out of the White House at places like this.

  • Franklin Roosevelt had three additional homes.
  • Harry Truman spent months at a time at his "Little White House" in Key West.
  • Lyndon Johnson's LBJ Ranch in Texas was his home for more than 500 days of his presidency.
  • Richard Nixon had both a California retreat and one in Florida, where he sequestered himself during the worst of the Watergate scandal.
  • Ronald Reagan spent more than 350 days at his Santa Barbara ranch.
  • George W. Bush spent the equivalent of a quarter of his presidency living at either Camp David or his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Governor Reagan at Richard Nixon's Western White House

President Trump's spending long breaks at Mar-a-Lago wouldn't be out of character for the office.

But spending several nights a week at Trump Tower is a whole different matter and one that's likely not to be feasible.

Trump Tower sits in the middle of Manhattan, and city zoning rules require the space in front to be accessible to the public.

But Secret Service requirements and constant protesting have resulted in an enormous security apparatus being built around it, including concrete barriers, security railings, fully loaded dump trucks, and heavily armed personnel.

Officials have also created a temporary no-fly zone over the building and closed major streets around it, including parts of heavily trafficked Fifth Avenue.

Were Trump to make the tower a semi-permanent residence, these arrangements would likely become oppressive for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who live and work in the area, particularly businesses.

Their cost would be considerable, though unknown, and it's not clear who would pay for them or if they're legally allowed in the city.

Nobody in the Trump camp has spoken on the record about his plans to live in the White House.

The candidate himself said in June 2015 that not only would he live there, he'd also "rarely leave" it:

"I would rarely leave the White House, because there’s so much work to be done,” Trump said in an interview. "I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off."