Staying at Blair House the night before his inauguration, US President Donald Trump was reportedly unhappy with the accommodations: “Too hot, bad water pressure, bad bed,” according to Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by author Michael Wolff.
The standard of what is essentially the President’s bed-and-breakfast lodging for foreign dignitaries is now being put to the test by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy during their whirlwind Washington DC visit.
The Turnbulls – and perhaps some members of their high-powered travelling troupe – will be based at Blair House, which was built in 1824 and, with more than 120 rooms, is bigger than the White House.
As well as 18 guest bedrooms and three formal dining rooms, it has “a hot and cold kitchen overseen by an executive chef and sous chef, a fully equipped beauty salon and exercise room”, according to its official website.
The Lincoln Room is a sitting room where presidents-elect and their families gather for their ride to the Capitol on Inauguration Day.
The Lee Drawing room has wallpaper picked out by first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
But given his packed four-day schedule focused on strengthening economic ties between Australia and the US, Mr Turnbull – heading up Australia’s largest and most significant delegation ever to the US – may not have much downtime for blowdries, workouts or admiring art works.
While he looked relaxed stepping off his modest VIP jet in Washington on Wednesday to be greeted by Joe Hockey, Australia’s ambassador to the US, the PM has had to hit the ground running.
Mr Turnbull will start his first full day with a breakfast meeting with Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin followed by meetings with Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and new Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell.
He is then scheduled to attend a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and make a Pentagon visit with chairman of the joint chiefs, General Joseph Dunford.
On Friday, Mr Turnbull has a joint news conference scheduled with Mr Trump, where he is likely to be asked by the White House press corps about Australia’s gun laws.
His relationship with Mr Trump may also be probed, given the two leaders’ 2017 first phone call famously ended with the President having a hissy fit about the Australia-US refugee deal.
Ambassador @JoeHockey welcomes PM @TurnbullMalcolm to Washington DC for a busy few days of meetings on #trade and #investment, #defence and #security and celebrating the 100 years of #mateship between 🇦🇺 and 🇺🇸 with America’s governors #wethestates @NatlGovsAssoc @thepmo pic.twitter.com/DZkuyBxx2i
— Australia in the US (@AusintheUS) February 22, 2018
But this time, in what has been described as the highest recognition by any president since John Howard’s 2006 visit, the Turnbulls will receive a ceremonial welcome at the White House.
The zenith of the trip will be Mr Trump and Mr Turnbull’s one-on-one closed-door meeting in the Oval Office, followed by a working lunch at the White House.
Meanwhile, First Lady Melania Trump will host a separate lunch for Mrs Turnbull.
The Prime Minister is anticipating a convivial time. “We’ve got a great – as Greg Norman said, he’s a great friend of both of us – we’ve got a great relationship,” Mr Turnbull told Sky News.
“We get on very well.”
The National Governors Association Conference at the JW Marriott Hotel will see Mr Turnbull make the keynote speech.
Flanked by a posse of premiers and chief ministers from NSW, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, the ACT and NT, the PM will meet more than 40 US state governors and chief executives of some of America’s biggest companies.
“What we’re going to do is broaden our reach and connection into the United States,” Mr Turnbull told Sky.
“This visit is a big part of it.”