- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 6, 2017

President Trump is not — repeat not — on vacation.

He’s just spending the next two weeks at his posh golf resort in New Jersey while the White House, which is not — repeat not — a dump, undergoes major renovations.

After frequently criticizing former President Barack Obama for his golf vacations, Mr. Trump decamped Washington on Friday for a 17-day stay at his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Perhaps mindful that his critics were accusing him of hypocrisy, Mr. Trump took to Twitter on Saturday evening to defend the move.

“Working in Bedminster, N.J., as long planned construction is being done at the White House. This is not a vacation — meetings and calls!” the president tweeted.

White House aides have called it a “working vacation,” which sounds a lot like the explanation Mr. Obama’s aides used to give: that the presidency travels with the man, even at a golf course or a rented beachfront house in Hawaii.

In addition to holding policy meetings at Bedminster, Mr. Trump is expected to make day trips to other states to promote his agenda.

Renovators didn’t waste any time overhauling the West Wing once Mr. Trump departed the White House. Work began hardly an hour after Mr. Trump boarded Air Force One en route to Bedminster, said White House social media manager Dan Scavino.

Mr. Scavino tweeted a picture of the Oval Office being emptied of furniture and office equipment, including a photograph of the White House’s historic Resolute desk being removed for renovation.

The renovations include upgrades to the facility’s 27-year-old air-conditioning and heating systems, as well as the installation of new wiring, paint and carpets.

“Due to the 24/7, 365-day use a year, the estimated age of the system based off of usage is 81 years old,” deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told reporters. “I doubt that you would want to come to work on a hot summer day when the air-conditioning wasn’t working.”

In addition to the HVAC work, other structural repairs include fixing a ceiling leak, repairing the steps to the South Portico on the South Lawn to help eradicate a persistent problem with house flies, and renovating the Navy Mess kitchen. Workers will also give a makeover to the West Wing lower lobby, including fresh paint, new carpet and curtains.

The extensive renovations began just a few days after Mr. Trump refuted a report that he had told golfing buddies the White House is “a dump.”

Mr. Trump has said he doesn’t like vacations, and that if you truly enjoy your job, you don’t need time off. But two weeks at a fancy golf resort is the kind of political optics over which Mr. Trump used to delight in poking fun at Mr. Obama.

“@Barackobama played golf yesterday. Now he heads to a 10 day vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. Nice work ethic,” Mr. Trump taunted his predecessor on Twitter in 2011.

He also asked, “Why is @BarackObama always campaigning or on vacation?”

In 2015, Mr. Trump said he didn’t think he would take much vacation time as president.

“I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done,” Mr. Trump said. “I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off. You don’t have time to take time off.”

Since his inauguration, Mr. Trump has spent about 30 percent of his days away from the White House, primarily at his resort properties in Palm Beach, Florida, and in New Jersey.

Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics who clashed with the Trump administration, said the president’s trip to his name-brand resort in New Jersey “is not a vacation.”

“This is a marketing blitz. Lobbyists & foreign govts should watch to see if HSN live broadcasts any cheap deals on influence,” Mr. Shaub tweeted.

Presidents typically take time off in August, when Congress is in recess. Mr. Obama and Bill Clinton favored vacations of two weeks or more at the high-rent summer playground of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts; President George W. Bush decompressed at his ranch in tiny Crawford, Texas; and Ronald Reagan cherished time spent riding horses at his ranch in the mountains of California.

• Andrew Blake contributed to this report.

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