The White House says President-elect Donald Trump will be able to work from the Oval Office on Day 1, despite assertions from Republican strategist Karl Rove.
Rove told Fox News on Wednesday that it was his “understanding” that for his first year in office, the presidential center of power will be off limits to Trump because President Barack Obama refused to have renovations done while he is in office.
“President Obama could have told the Secret Service, ‘I know you want to modernize the Oval Office with security enhancements ... so we’ve got bulletproof glass and so forth and so on ... in my last year in office,’ but instead he said, ‘Why don’t you do that (with) whoever comes next,’” Rove, a senior adviser to former President George W. Bush, told Fox, according to the New York Post.
Trump, he asserted, will be forced to spend “most of his first year” working out of Richard Nixon’s private office in the neighboring Old Executive Office Building.
But a White House official said while there are “security enhancements” being made to the White House campus on an ongoing basis, “they will not impede President-elect Trump’s ability to work out of the Oval Office when he assumes the presidency.”
The official would not elaborate on the security enhancements.
There is a rich history of presidents using the neighboring Old Executive Office Building for their work space. Lyndon Johnson retained his vice presidential office in the Old Executive Office Building after becoming president, in deference to the slain John F. Kennedy.
When Nixon came into office in 1969, he decided to use Room 180 in the building as his working office, using the Oval Office as his ceremonial office. It’s where a number of Nixon’s tapes from the “Watergate Scandal” were recorded in the early 1970s, according to a history of the building.
The history notes “it is believed that Nixon had a hole drilled into the desk to hide his phone cords and a lock was placed on the left-hand drawer to secure the tape recorder contained within, which documented some of the infamous ‘Watergate’ phone conversations. Both the hole and the lock still remain today.”
According to White House records, President Herbert Hoover occupied the secretary of the Navy’s office in the Old Executive Building for a few months after a fire in the Oval Office on Christmas Eve 1929.
Following presidential tradition, Obama remodeled the Oval Office in 2010, a redesign his office said was paid for through the White House Historical Association with money from the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to have a work space in the West Wing, but it was small and rectangular, not oval, said William Bushong, a historian with the White House Historical Association.
William Howard Taft ordered expansions and renovations and in 1909 became the first U.S. president to work in an oval-shaped office, though not the same one that stands today. The modern Oval Office, bigger and in a different spot, was completed in 1934 for Franklin Roosevelt.