President Donald Trump is home alone, so suddenly one of the hottest new tickets in town is an invitation to the White House.
The President is going to start hitting the Washington dinner party circuit. In most cases, actually, his guests will come to him as he tries building bridges in a city that he has spent years railing against.
“It’s very good – a beautiful relationship,” said Trump, all smiles Monday as he hosted congressional leaders at the White House for his first round of evening visitors. A piano played Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind,” as the President mingled with top Republicans and Democrats, all of whom are feeling their way in Trump’s new Washington.
The President’s aides have one thing in mind as he adjusts to his new surroundings: keeping the boss busy.
People close to Trump’s team acknowledged that his first weekend in office had been overtaken by the President engaging in a fight over crowd sizes and media coverage he perceived as negative. Alarmed Republicans urged allies inside the West Wing to instill discipline on the President’s message.
With his wife, Melania, and son, Barron, back in New York, Trump has asked his advisers to stretch his schedule from daytime to nighttime, creating a far different environment at the White House than the last eight years.
President Barack Obama left the Oval Office punctually for dinner with his young family on most nights, before returning to work later in the evening. President George W. Bush started and ended his days far earlier.
Not since President Bill Clinton has the midnight oil routinely burned in the White House, where policy discussions and strategy sessions often went into the night. Trump will likely strike a balance somewhere between his three predecessors.
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Trump, said the President’s schedule will include working dinners most every evening. She said he plans to even hold some type of media dinners, despite his self-proclaimed war with the press.
On his first full weekday in office, it quickly became clear how eager Trump was to show his visitors around the West Wing, particularly the Oval Office. He held six separate photo opportunities Monday alone, including two with a group of union leaders who he summoned for a picture behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office after a meeting nearby in the Roosevelt Room ended.
Sean McGarvey, president of the North America’s Building Trades Union, was beaming after he left.
“He took the time to take everyone into the Oval Office and show them the seat of power in the world,” McGarvey said outside the White House. “The respect that the President of the United States just showed us … was nothing short of incredible.”
Invitations are starting to go out across Washington to visit Trump, aides said, including adversaries like members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus.
“He is someone who really enjoys that kind of conversation,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said. “I think you are going to see lot of meetings occur like the ones that he did today.”
It’s an open question how some Democratic groups will react to Trump’s invitations. Eight years ago, several Republican lawmakers declined social invitations to the Obama White House, fearful of being seen as too cozy with the Democratic president.
For Trump, it’s a new challenge.
But as he held court with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and their Republican counterparts Monday evening, all of whom later described the meeting as fairly free of deep substance, he declared: “We’re about to make a big deal.”