Wednesday 13 December 2017

Donald Trump swaps regal for rustic as he heads to Camp David for weekend

Donald Trump is going to Camp David (AP/Andrew Harnik)
Donald Trump is going to Camp David (AP/Andrew Harnik)

Donald Trump is spending the weekend at Camp David for the first time since being elected president.

A frequent weekend traveller, Mr Trump has favoured his palatial residences in Florida and New Jersey over the government-owned retreat in Maryland used by many presidents for a break from Washington.

No one expects the luxury-loving leader to make this a regular thing. After all, Mr Trump told foreign newspapers earlier this year that Camp David was "very rustic" and "you know how long you'd like it? For about 30 minutes".

Presidents have been coming to the refuge about 70 miles from the White House for seven decades, and not always just for a rest.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt met with Prime Minister Winston Churchill there in 1943, reviewing plans for the invasion of Normandy.

Jimmy Carter used it for peace talks between Egypt and Israel, while George HW Bush's daughter Dorothy got married there.

"Everything that a president needs in the White House is built in there," said Anita McBride, who was first lady Laura Bush's chief of staff. "You have military support. You have a place to house your staff if you chose to use it. It is immediately available... Within 20 minutes you can be there."

A short drive from the town of Thurmont, Maryland, Camp David covers more than 125 acres, with a cabin for the president and about a dozen cabins for guests.

Guests can use tennis courts, a heated swimming pool, a bowling alley and a cinema. For the golf-loving Mr Trump, there is a single golf hole with multiple tees.

Protected by the Marines as part of the navy budget, Camp David has been utilised more by some presidents than others.

By this point in their presidencies, Barack Obama had visited four times, George W Bush 11 times and Bill Clinton twice, according to CBS News' Mark Knoller, who tracks presidential travel.

So far, Mr Trump has preferred his own properties.

He regularly headed to his private club Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, during the early days of his administration, embracing it as the "winter White House" and using it to host the leaders of Japan and China.

More recently he has favoured his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he has a home.

Going to his properties incurs additional security expenses unlike a trip to Camp David, which is protected year-round as a military installation.

The first president to use the retreat was Mr Roosevelt in 1942. He was looking for an escape from Washington's summer heat, while still remaining nearby during the Second World War. He dubbed the site Shangri-La, but Dwight Eisenhower, a regular visitor, later renamed it after his grandson.

John F Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were infrequent visitors, though they did use the camp to meet with advisers from time to time. Richard Nixon was a fan of getting away there as was Ronald Reagan.


Press Association

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