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Getting ready for the new guy

This week the world focused on the handover of power to Joe Biden just down the road from the White House. But just what was happening inside the presidential mansion? Washington insider Tim Samuels gets the lowdown on a moving day like no other

Anyone who has ever given their flat a final clean before handing back the keys knows what a gargantuan task it can be. Funny how you don’t notice all that dust and dirt when your possessions are still in situ. So imagine the graft involved when one president vacates the White House and the next one moves in. Not to mention the cost — washing away the whiff of Donald Trump before the arrival of the Bidens apparently cost about £125,000, with £30,000 alone spent on deep-cleaning carpets upon which two super-spreader events were held.

De-Coviding the soft furnishings in the White House’s 132 rooms was perhaps one of the more straightforward elements of the transition mission. The breakneck operation to switch over administrations is, in normal times, akin to ‘organised chaos’, says former White House chief usher Gary Walters, who oversaw three presidential moving days. In Trumpian times, that chaos predictably became, well, more chaotic. As any removal man — or bailiff — will testify, it’s much harder when the residents are leaving kicking and screaming.

Joe Biden and Dr Jill Biden

“You can’t do anything until the family that’s there has gone. It’s still their house, still their home”

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The Blue Room

“I always remember a funny scene from the Clinton transition, with the Bush vans ready to move out and the Clinton vans waiting at the gate”

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St John's Episcopal Church

“What’s so remarkable is most of these staffers stay on through administrations. They are a small private universe of people who aren’t political in Washington”

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