President Donald Trump didn’t take long to put his stamp on the Oval Office, reinstalling a bust of Winston Churchill that had gotten the boot under President Obama.
The Churchill bust was on view as Trump took some of his first actions as president, signing executive orders and a waiver to let generals serve in his cabinet despite prohibitions on ex-military tenure.
There was a transatlantic flap when Obama removed the Churchill bust in 2009. The White House at first denied it had been removed, but it was later confirmed that it had been returned to the British Embassy.
WATCHING OVER HIM: President Donald Trump has reinstalled a bust of Winston Churchill inside the Oval Office. The sculpture was removed after President Obama took office in 2009. Trump has also rearranged and removed furniture from the Oval Office – adding gold curtains and changing up the chair behind the Resolute Desk
Back in the Oval: The head of Winston Churchill was a work by Jacob Epstein, the renowned post-war British sculptor, and is now back on a table in the Oval Office
Changed up: This is the picture taken as Barack Obama left the Oval Office on Friday morning. You can see that he preferred red curtains and had a chest of drawers in the corner where Winston Churchill is now
Reporters allowed into the Oval Office for the document signings observed the change.
Obama defended the removal on a trip to the United Kingdom.
‘I love Winston Churchill, I love the guy,’ Obama said at a press conference in London with then-Prime Minister David Cameron.
Then-London mayor Boris Johnson, now foreign secretary, attributed the removal to Obama’s ‘ancestral dislike of the British Empire’ owing to his father’s Kenyan heritage.
During the initial flap, then-White House press secretary Dan Pfeiffer defiantly denied the charge, saying ‘The bust is still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.’ In fact, that was another bust that had been a gift to President Lyndon Johnson.
RESTORATION: President Donald Trump has returned a bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office. It was presented by the British Government to President George W. Bush in 2001
The new Trump press shop didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Friday night.
The Sun reported that when Johnson visited Trump tower and met with Trump advisors Steven Bannon and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, they asked for the bust to be returned.
‘The Prime Minister is happy to loan the Churchill bust to the White House and will be delighted to view it on display when she visits this Spring,’ a spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May told the paper.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee also promoted the Kenyan angle. ‘His perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather. He probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather’ Huckabee said, the Hill reported.
British Independence Party leader Nigel Farage tweeted days after the elections, ‘Especially pleased at @realDonaldTrump’s very positive reaction to idea that Sir Winston Churchill’s bust should be put back in Oval Office.’
Trump during the elections backed the Brexit campaign. His mother was born in Scotland, and he has signaled that a trade deal with Britain could be an early priority.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted out a photo of the Martin Luther King bust, which remains in the Oval Office, after an erroneous pool report that it had been moved
For a brief period Friday night, there were erroneous reports that a bust of Martin Luther King that Obama had installed had been removed from the Oval Office. In fact, the statue was simply not visible behind a door when reporters were let inside and a pool reported didn’t see it, alerting colleagues.
New press secretary Sean Spicer had some fun at the expense of the press, sending out a tweet thanking the new chief of staff for a ‘wonderful picture of the MLK bust in the oval’ and posted the image of the bust.