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Deep cleaning, packing supplies, and a concession: The Trumps plan their White House exit

There hasn’t been a peaceful transition of power, but there will be a transition.

President Trump boards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on January 12.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Will he really go?

It has been a question on the minds of countless Americans these past few months as President Donald Trump sought to undermine the results of the presidential election. As such, an unprecedented number of Republicans believe the results of the election are illegitimate, and Americans on the other side of the aisle are worried he will not leave the White House on President-elect Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day.

Despite Trump’s protests, Biden’s team has named 33 Senate-confirmable nominees, it’s announced Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem, it’s deemed “America United” the inaugural theme, and it’s ready to have the White House professionally scrubbed from top to bottom. The show is going on.

On Friday, Reuters’s Steve Holland broke the big news: The 45th president of the United States plans to leave the White House the morning of January 20. Instead of attending President-elect Biden’s inauguration, he’ll reportedly host a farewell event outside Joint Base Andrews. CNN’s Jim Acosta reported a “color guard, military band, 21 gun salute and red carpet” are all being considered for the event.

To be sure, this has not been a seamless transition of power by any stretch of the imagination. On January 6, pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol decked in MAGA, Nazi, and Confederate iconography, halting the normally mundane counting of the electoral votes overseen by Vice President Mike Pence. Hours later, the majority of House Republicans still chose to continue undermining the election by rejecting the presidential results from Arizona and Pennsylvania.

But in recent weeks, potentially due to worries of legal culpability and impeachment, the president has finally admitted there will be a transition of power. While he hasn’t admitted that Biden won the election fairly, he has scrambled to distance himself from the violent upheaval caused at least in part by his false claims of voter fraud by releasing two videos nominally conceding and affirming Biden’s impending inauguration.

Meanwhile, his residence is preparing for a new occupant. Here’s what we know about the logistical procedures underway before Biden enters the White House.

Appointees are still being named, carpets are still being cleaned, and moving boxes are still being packed

Inauguration Day is also Moving Day for the Bidens and the Trumps — and the White House has been taking steps to begin transitioning the physical building for its soon-to-be occupants.

CNN’s Kate Bennett and Maegan Vazquez reported that the White House is preparing for a thorough cleaning of the premises, a normal routine that has been ramped up this year. Now, the entire building will receive an upgraded level of cleaning due to Covid-19. (Note: There’s little evidence that surface transmission is a source of infection so this could be yet another example of the hygiene theater that has preoccupied so much of the last year.)

According to CNN, the total for the “amplified White House inauguration deep clean ... hovers near a half-million dollars.” This is a departure from previous years where the “bulk of the cleaning” was done by White House staff; an anonymous source told CNN that this change is due to the Biden team’s concern that the building has played host to more than one potential superspreader event and a host of unsafe-during-a-pandemic activities.

Packing supplies are also being delivered — a moving truck delivering unfolded boxes was photographed at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building where the bulk of the White House staff works.

Boxes are being moved out of the Eisenhower Executive Office building inside the White House complex on January 14.
Gerald Herbert/AP

The most important part of the transition is appointments, a mixed bag for the Biden team. As NPR reported in 2009 when he was sworn in, then-President Barack Obama had six Cabinet members already confirmed, and at his inauguration, Trump already had two. Biden, on the other hand, is on track to have zero despite having rolled out 33 nominees of the 1,250 that require Senate confirmation, according to the Washington Post’s tracker.

So while Biden may enter office slightly behind the curve on Cabinet confirmations, all signs point to him entering the White House following his inauguration with the previous occupants having already left for Mar-a-Lago.