White House to Take Rare Turn as Host of Memorial Service

robert trump memorial
Donald Trump (R) and his brother Robert in 1999. (AP Photo/Diane Bonadreff)

Sometimes politics gives way to the personal at the White House. It has seen 18 weddings and at least 10 people are known to have died there, including two presidents and three first ladies.

It will serve Friday as a place of mourning for President Donald Trump and his family, with a private memorial service for the president’s younger brother, Robert, who died last week at 71. The president has described Robert as “not just my brother. He was my best friend.”

Abraham Lincoln and Calvin Coolidge both mourned the loss of a son while serving as president – Willie Lincoln in 1862 and Calvin Coolidge Jr. in 1924. The memorial services for both children began in the White House.

Unlike Willie Lincoln and Calvin Coolidge Jr., Robert Trump did not live at the White House. Nevertheless, it’s completely within the president’s ability to honor him with a service there, said Anita McBride, who served in three presidential administrations, including as first lady Laura Bush’s chief of staff, and is now director of the Legacies of America’s First Ladies initiative at American University.

“The White House is a very complex place. It’s an office, it’s a museum and it’s a home,” McBride said. “We loan it to the president for the time he or she is living there. Coming from that perspective, we need to be understanding of some decisions that they make in a case like this.”

When Trump explained why he wanted to have a service for his brother at the White House, he said: “I think he’d be greatly honored. He loves our country. He loved our country so much. He was so proud of what we were doing and what we are doing for our country. So I think it would be appropriate.”

Robert Trump, a businessman, died Saturday after being hospitalized in New York. The president had visited his brother in the hospital on Friday.

Robert Trump began his career on Wall Street working in corporate finance but later joined the family business, managing real-estate holdings as a top executive in the Trump Organization.