Life in the West Wing: Bug zappers and helicopter fumes

Bug zappers buzz in the West Wing while flies zip around. The yellow carpet is worn, and it can sometimes be difficult to work in parts of the White House because it fills with fumes when Marine One lands or takes off on the lawn of America’s most famous home.

Some White House aides claim to have seen rodents, and say they’re used to having maintenance professionals moving around their work space to do work on the air conditioning system, which hasn’t been overhauled in more than 20 years.

Fixing it is top of the agenda for a building-wide renovation blitz scheduled for the next two weeks, while President Donald Trump heads to his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

Along with installing a high-volume air-conditioning system, the work may include replacing worn carpets and addressing other issues, according to a spokesperson for the General Services Administration, which will oversee the work.

A Sports Illustrated report that President Donald Trump told members at Bedminster that he travels so often to the club because “that White House is a real dump” set off a furor this week and triggered White House demands for a retraction. Trump called the report “fake news” Wednesday night, tweeting that the White House is “one of the most beautiful buildings (homes) I have ever seen.” The reporter later said he thought the president was simply being cavalier.

But current and former White House staffers say there’s plenty of room for improvement.

“We had bug zappers going 24/7,” said Tommy Vietor, who served as National Security Council spokesman under President Barack Obama. “It’s the best office I will ever have, but that building is old and the infrastructure needs constant improvement.”

During the prior administration, GSA did touch-ups while Obama was vacationing in Hawaii or Martha’s Vineyard. The air-conditioning project is bigger project that will shutter the West Wing during Trump’s absence.

“The maintenance people work hard, but when you’ve got a place that runs 24-7, it’s hard to keep it all in decent shape,” said a White House official.

The main situation room was recently closed for two weeks so that the iconic main table could be refurbished, according to a former official.

Aides say the working space is the problem for Trump, not the private residence—which includes the Lincoln Bedroom—or historic entertaining spaces like the East Room, which he likes to show off to people who are visiting the White House. An aide said Trump has learned the history of each room so he can regale visitors while giving tours.

Trump has said in the past that he never takes vacation. A White House aide said that the Bedminster break was scheduled around the renovation, but has been designed to be a “real vacation” for Trump.

Senior advisers, including chief strategist Steve Bannon and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway will trickle in and out of the golf course, which is situated in a farm town in central New Jersey.

All aides can either work remotely or out of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building across from the White House, where the Vice President’s office is located.

“It’s the only ‘leaks’ they can fix,” quipped the former official.

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