Camp David
CNN  — 

President Donald Trump will get a change of scenery this weekend, making a rare trip to Camp David in Maryland Friday evening for weekend meetings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump will be joined by a small group of aides, including chief of staff Mark Meadows and Ivanka Trump, two White House officials told CNN.

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said it would be a “working weekend,” telling reporters at Friday’s press briefing that he will be speaking with heads of states and elected officials.

Trump doesn’t often visit the historic presidential retreat, which he once described as “rustic,” preferring to weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida or Bedminster club in New Jersey. But he has employed the secluded space in Catoctin Mountain Park, just under 70 miles and a quick ride aboard Marine One, to host members of Congress and his Cabinet. It was set to be the site of the G7 summit with world leaders this June, which will now be held via teleconference.

Trump also had sought to use the getaway for secret talks with Afghan and Taliban officials last September, plans that were scrapped after a Taliban car bomb killed a US soldier and 11 others. He was widely criticized for the prospect of using the retreat, which has historically been the site of other peace talks and high-level discussions, the weekend of the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.

Trump hasn’t left the White House since March 28, when he traveled to Norfolk, Virginia, to send off the USNS Comfort. And before that, he hadn’t left Washington since March 9, a weekend trip to Palm Beach followed by a fundraiser in the Orlando area. He is expected to hit the road again soon, traveling to Phoenix to tour a Honeywell mask production facility on Tuesday.

The Camp David escape also comes amid a shifting strategy from the White House, a narrower focus on the economy as the country begins the process of reopening in some states.

Maryland currently remains under a stay-at-home order. A group of activists, Reopen Maryland, are planning a “peaceful, cross-state road rally/caravan” Saturday to protest the state’s shutdown, beginning in Frederick, about 20 miles away.

Earlier Friday, the President tweeted support for Michigan protesters, some of whom were armed in the state Capitol.

“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

McEnany defended the tweet, saying that the President was referencing Americans’ First Amendment right to protest.

“You have a right to do that, constitutionally, but you must protest within the bounds of the law. He encourages everyone to protest lawfully and also to engage in our social distancing guidelines which we think all Americans should engage in,” McEnany said.

Known formally as the Naval Support Facility Thurmont and originally called “Shangri-La,” the highly restricted facility has been used as a presidential retreat and place to host foreign dignitaries since President Franklin Roosevelt. It’s known for relaxation, fresh air and a comfortable atmosphere. The tranquil 180-acre camp houses log cabins, an outdoor swimming pool, a one-hole golf course, a shooting range, a bowling alley and trails.

But beyond the seclusion and the activities, the camp also serves as a working White House. It is fully equipped with the security and resources necessary to run the country, and was activated for Vice President Dick Cheney on September 11.

“It was a place that people like the vice president and others were relocated during a very dangerous time because it is a very protected military installation. It serves a purpose for continuity of government and continuity of operations,” Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush, told CNN in 2017. “There are solemn responsibilities and uses for a place like Camp David that has the full ability to operate as an office for the president.”

The camp has a long and storied history with United States presidents, some of whom utilized the retreat more than others. President Barack Obama, in addition to the 2012 G8 summit, hosted a 2015 meeting with a group of Gulf State leaders. He otherwise came to the camp infrequently, just a few dozen times during his presidency.

President George W. Bush and his family spent 12 Christmases at Camp David during his and his father’s presidencies. Bush made 150 visits to Camp David while in office, 19 times with foreign leaders, according to CBS News’ Mark Knoller.

President Jimmy Carter almost got rid of Camp David, but a hallmark of his presidency and perhaps the most notable event in the camp’s history, was the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978.

Days before taking office, Trump appeared unenthused with the “very rustic” retreat in an interview with The Times of London and German Newspaper Bild.

“Yeah, Camp David is very rustic, it’s nice, you’d like it. You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes,” Trump said at the time.

CNN’s Jason Hoffman contributed to this report.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to accurately reflect Trump previously traveled to Norfolk, Virginia, to send off the USNS Comfort.