Where President Donald Trump decides to spend the final weeks of his presidency has become a matter of internal speculation as aides wonder whether he’ll leave the White House for the holidays – and never return.
At this stage, there are plans for Trump to remain at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach over Christmas and New Year’s, but the guidance offered to staffers ends there, people familiar with the plans said.
Trump could return to Washington for the final days on his term. But there have also been some discussions about the President and the first lady remaining in Florida and not coming back to the White House, a White House official said.
The talks are fluid and no plan is set at this point, officials cautioned. Sources at Mar-a-Lago and in Washington both indicated there is nothing currently on the calendar for the first couple to remain in Florida after New Years.
Trump had originally planned to visit Mar-a-Lago over Thanksgiving, but canceled the trip as his private quarters were being renovated in anticipation of him moving there permanently after his administration concludes.
Asked about the prospect of the President going to Florida in December and never returning to Washington, one source responded it was “pure speculation.”
But at a moment when Trump has become consumed with contesting the results of an election he lost, staffers acknowledge that Trump has not given many signals about what his plans will be once the Electoral College affirms President-elect Joe Biden’s win on December 14.
Trump on Monday wouldn’t say if he’s still trying to change the outcome of the 2020 election with his ongoing legal battles while speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, but he didn’t back down from his false claims about election fraud.
“I think the case was already made if you look at the polls,” Trump said, moments after presenting the Medal of Freedom. “It was a rigged election.”
He again launched into a slew of baseless claims about voting fraud, and once again claimed the US election was, “like a third-world country.”
“I think the case has been made,” he repeated, “and now we find out what we can do about it, but you’ll see a lot of big things happening over the next couple of days.”
Some aides have tried to gently suggest to the President he begin trying to identify and execute end-of-term priorities, but he remains intently focused on the election results, even as executive branch agencies and departments rush to finalize a flurry of rule-making efforts.
Trump is still considering a raft of pardons and other moves before he leaves office, but has spent the vast majority of his time over the past weeks watching television coverage of the transition and speaking with advisers about various conspiracy theories related to the election results.
What he does on Inauguration Day remains an open question.
He has given indications that he will tease a 2024 run, but hasn’t offered a firm plan of how he’ll do it. He has mused about counter-programming Biden’s inauguration with a rally or event, but hasn’t moved past the ideation phase.
Some aides have encouraged Trump to perform the traditional hand-off of power, believing it would better preserve his brand going forward. But the President has privately downplayed the notion of welcoming Biden to the White House, saying he doesn’t believe it would make any difference to his supporters.
CNN’s Allie Malloy contributed to this report.