President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhitmer responds to Atlas: I won’t ‘be bullied into not following reputable scientists’ Obama: US ‘adversaries have seen us weakened’ Obama describes wife Michelle’s resistance to presidential ambitions MORE is getting a White House portrait and a presidential library — even if he announces another bid for the presidency in the meantime.
Life after the White House for most presidents typically includes writing memoirs, starting foundations and attending events as dignitaries.
But Trump, who remains the most popular figure in his party, might not be headed for a retirement from politics.
The last two presidents who lost reelection bids, Democrat Jimmy CarterJimmy CarterThe special peril of this transition Carter Center to monitor audit of Georgia election results Trump retreats from public eye in post-election fight MORE in 1980 and Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992, never ran for the high office again.
Trump allies are signaling that the current president is thinking about it, and some see him as a favorite in a Republican primary if he chooses to run for the White House again.
Those plans will have no bearing on when his portrait is done or when his library is commissioned or constructed. Instead, experts said, the timeline on both will depend on how cooperative Trump is with the process. Neither has started in earnest.
Presidents typically have two portraits commissioned to be unveiled after they have left office. One hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, and another hangs in the White House.
The National Portrait Gallery will reach out to the president and first lady with a list of recommended artists near the end of their term, a process that started with then-President George H.W. Bush. Once an artist has been selected, the gallery will raise funds to commission the painting.
The museum has not started the process of artist selection and fundraising, a spokesperson said, but it expects to initiate it soon. Had Trump won a second term, the process would have been put off until roughly 2024.
Even if Trump runs for the Republican nomination in 2024, the National Portrait Gallery spokesperson said they still expect to move forward on commissioning a painting of the Trumps in the near future because of the possibility the president would not win reelection in four years.
Once the National Portrait Gallery work has been commissioned, a separate painting will be done to hang in the White House.
“There have been presidents where the portraits were essentially done before they left the White House, and others where the process didn’t start until they left the White House,” said Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association.
If the timetable for the paintings is fuzzy, so too is when Trump supporters might know where to find his presidential library.
For example, a presidential library is typically funded, organized and maintained by a private foundation set up for that purpose. But Trump did not set up such a foundation during his first term, and it’s not clear whether it has been discussed.
The National Archives will be tasked with keeping presidential records from Trump’s time in office until they can be housed in a designated library.
“The National Archives’ legal and physical custody of Trump Presidential records and/or the status of a Trump Presidential Library would not be affected if President Trump runs for office in 2024,” a spokesperson for the archives said in a statement. “NARA [the National Archives and Records Administration] assumes legal custody of all Presidential records at the end of the Presidential administration in accordance with the Presidential Records Act, which also governs access to these records.”
It may not be surprising to see Trump break from the typical timelines associated with presidential portraits and libraries, as his White House has in the past broken with norms associated with both.
The Trump administration has had issues maintaining the documents required under the Presidential Records Act. Politico reported in 2018 on a team of people tasked with taping back together documents Trump had torn apart, and House Democrats this week called on Trump officials to adhere to preservation requirements during the transition to a Biden administration.
Presidents typically host their predecessors for a ceremony to unveil the official White House portrait, but no such event took place involving Trump and former President Obama given the acrimonious relationship between the two. Trump, who spent months personally attacking President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenObama: US ‘adversaries have seen us weakened’ US sees 1M new coronavirus cases in one week GOP shows limited appetite for pursuing Biden probes MORE and his son, may not be interested or welcome at the White House for a ceremony of his own in the next four years.
Trump has been one of the country’s most divisive presidents, attracting both legions of devoted supporters and scores of critics who have protested many of his policy stances and public statements. It’s possible a presidential library may become a place of protest depending on its location, and a painting at the National Portrait Gallery could draw protests in heavily Democratic Washington, D.C.
Trump would not be the first controversial president to have his image hang in the National Portrait Gallery, and the museum notes that it attracts tourists from all over the world.
“The protection of all of our artworks is very important,” the gallery spokesperson said. “Once President Obama’s portrait was installed, because of lines, we did have a security guard stationed by the portrait. Likely we could be doing something similar with President Trump’s portrait.”