Trump Won't Attend Barbara Bush's Funeral In Texas — Here's What He's Doing Instead
On Thursday, the White House confirmed that President Trump won't attend Barbara Bush's funeral, citing concerns that the extra security required by his presence would disrupt the event. Bush — who was first lady of the United States between 1989 and 1993, as the wife of George H. W. Bush, and was also the mother of the 43rd president — died on Tuesday at the age of 92.
Her funeral will take place in Houston, Texas on Saturday. Instead of going to the ceremony, Trump will spend the weekend at Mar-a-Lago, according to the AP. On Friday evening he will hold a meeting with supporters of the Republican National Committee. There are no events yet listed on his public schedule for Saturday, the day of Bush's funeral.
But while the president won't be in attendance, the current first lady will be. "Melania Trump will attend the memorial service for Barbara Bush this Saturday on behalf of the First Family," read a statement released by the White House. "To avoid disruptions due to added security, and out of respect for the Bush Family and friends attending the service, President Trump will not attend."
The president did, however, give a brief speech in honor of the former first lady before a joint press conference he held with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe at Mar-a-Lago on Wednesday. Trump called Bush a "wonderful, wonderful person" and "a woman of proud patriotism and profound faith" whose "strength and toughness really embodied the spirit of our country."
He also ordered flags throughout the country to be flown at half-staff. As TIME and other outlets reported, however, the flag at Mar-a-Lago remained at full-staff until the next morning, when Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that the error had been fixed after it was pointed out by reporters.
"Mrs. Bush was an advocate of the American family," Trump wrote in his command to lower flags. "Mrs. Bush lived a life that reminds us always to cherish our relationships with friends, family, and all acquaintances. In the spirit of the memory of Mrs. Bush, may we always remember to be kind to one another and to put the care of others first."
Some people have expressed skepticism about the White House's reason as to why Trump won't attend Bush's funeral. The BBC reporter Anthony Zurcher speculated that the real reason was the president's "feud with the Bush family." Trump has often spoken out against decisions President George W. Bush made in office, including choosing to invade Iraq and not taking stronger action to stop North Korea's nuclear program. For his part, Bush did not endorse or vote for Trump for president.
Barbara Bush herself criticized Trump in a Feb. 2016 interview with CNN. She said that the way he's treated women is "unbelievable" and that "I don't understand why people are for him, for that reason." She also called him a "showman."
However, the Bush family member Trump has the most brittle relationship with is Jeb Bush, his former GOP primary opponent. During the election, Trump and Jeb repeatedly hurled insults at each other. Most notably, Trump called him "low-energy Jeb," a nickname that unfortunately stuck with the former Florida governor throughout the campaign.
Security will already be extremely high at the funeral without Trump's presence. Four former presidents — her husband and son, plus President Clinton and President Obama — will be there, as well as three former first ladies: Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama. CNN reports that President Carter can't make it because he's traveling abroad, and his wife Rosalynn Carter will also be absent because she's still in recovery after a surgery.
However, the Associated Press reports that it's not necessarily customary for sitting presidents to attend the funerals of former first ladies. For example, President Obama did not go to the ceremonies for Betty Ford in 2011 or Nancy Reagan in 2016. Of course, they both belonged to Republican administrations.