Dec 29, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Ex-press secretary: Trump wanted to fire usher for helping Bidens move in

Former President Trump speaking in Palm Beach, Florida, in November 2022.

Former President Trump speaking in Palm Beach, Florida, in November 2022. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former President Trump wanted to fire the former White House chief usher for helping the Bidens move into the executive mansion, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Grisham's account indicates that Trump's desire to delay or prevent the transition of power after the 2020 election affected traditionally nonpolitical White House positions.

What they're saying: Grisham said Timothy Harleth, the former White House chief usher, "independently" reached out to members of Biden's transition team after Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election and gave them a binder with resources to help the incoming first family, like blueprints so they could order furniture.

  • Grisham described Harleth's actions as "the normal stuff that you would do" during a presidential transition, but said he "wasn't really allowed" to talk to Biden's people.
  • When Trump and former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows found out about Harleth's contact with Biden's team, she said they "wanted to fire him immediately for trying to facilitate that kind of transition."
  • "They felt that what Tim did was completely disloyal, and they were not to help at all, or he was not to help at all, and he was almost fired for it," Grisham told the committee.
  • However, Harleth was not fired because former first lady Melania Trump "stepped in and said, no, you're not going to fire him with 3 weeks to go," Grisham said.

The big picture: The White House chief usher, traditionally a nonpolitical position, is head of household staff and operations at the executive mansion. Appointed ushers typically serve multiple presidential administrations.

  • Harleth, a former employee of the Trump Organization, was chosen to become usher by Melania Trump in 2017.
  • Ultimately, Harleth was fired on Inauguration Day even before the Bidens officially moved into the White House, according to the New York Times.
  • His firing resulted in a brief awkward moment when Joe and Jill Biden first arrived at the mansion in 2021.
  • Since there was no hired usher at the time of their arrival, the Bidens were greeted with a set of closed doors on the North Portico. Typically, the doors would have been held open for the first family.

Go deeper:

READ: Donald Trump Jr.'s testimony to Jan. 6 committee

Jan. 6 select committee releases dozens of transcripts of witness testimonies

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