The White House Released Its Staff Salaries – And The Biggest Earners May Come As A Surprise

Some 420 people work for the current White House administration, and generally they’re paid pretty handsomely. However, excluding the president and vice-president, these 40 people are among the highest-paid employees of the White House right now, according to official data from June 2019. And spoiler alert: the top three all share the same first name.

40. Leslie A. Ford

In February 2019 the White House announced, “Leslie A. Ford will serve as special assistant to the President for Domestic Policy. Ms. Ford previously served as associate director in the Domestic Policy Council.” Among her responsibilities, it’s been reported, is work on Medicaid, and for her pains she gets a not-too-shabby salary of $106,000.

39. Cassidy Dumbauld

Cassidy Dumbauld is the director of the Office of the Senior Advisor – which means that she works for Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. And according to the record, she, too, makes $106,000 a year. However, Dumbauld’s relationship with fellow Trump staffer Nick Luna has definitely been the subject of more media chatter than her paycheck.

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38. Hayley D’Antuono

Before moving on, Hayley D’Antuono worked for Republican former congressman John Ratcliffe as his office manager. And it appeared that she was an asset, as in 2017 Ratcliffe posted a goodbye message to her on Facebook, saying, “She’s starting tomorrow working for First Lady Melania Trump, who I know will be very lucky to have her.” Currently, D’Antuono is the director of operations for the Office of the First Lady, making $106,000 a year.

37. Kevin Garvey

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If you simply Google Kevin Garvey’s name, you’ll see results for Justin Theroux’s police chief character from the popular HBO TV show The Leftovers. However, the real Garvey actually served as deputy associate counsel to the President – which, in 2019, earned him $110,000 a year – and has since progressed to Chief of Staff to the U.S. Trade Representative.

36. Stewart Barber Young

Stewart Barber Young – who happens to be the older sister of Fox News correspondent Ellison Barber – works for Ivanka Trump as the head of the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative. And, naturally, she’s paid accordingly, with a salary that comes in at a cool $120,000.

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35. Theodore Wold

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Theodore Wold was appointed as special assistant to the President for Domestic Policy in 2018, and now he earns $120,000 a year. More specifically, Wold works under Jared Kushner and handles systems that have to do with immigration and the promotion of the president’s planned border wall.

34. Alexander Willette

Alexander Reginald Willette made political history when he became the youngest member of legislative leadership in the United States. That was back in 2010, and a decade on he’s risen to become the deputy director of Political Affairs for Outreach. How much does he earn? A pretty impressive $120,000 a year.

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33. Susan Varga

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Back in the 1990s, Susan Varga was an employee at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia – the multimedia empire owned by America’s favorite lifestyle guru. And in a way, not much has changed, as now she works for another former television personality as the Director of the National Economic Council. For that role, her salary is $120,000.

32. Alec Sugarman

Sometimes, the line between show business and politics is a thin one, and Alec Sugarman is a case in point. That’s because the man known as “AJ” is the son of Entertainment Tonight presenter Mary Hart and television producer Burt Sugarman. In the White House, the younger Sugarman is special assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, and he makes a not-to-be-sniffed-at $120,000 per year.

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31. Alexandra Stone

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On September 6, 2018, the White House made the announcement, “Alexandra E. Stone will serve as special assistant to the President and director of the White House Management Office. Ms. Stone previously served as deputy director of Finance and Travel Lead.” And in her current position, she’s been given a salary of $120,000.

30. Gregory L. Smith

Gregory L. Smith currently holds the role of deputy director of Political Affairs for Policy and Personnel. And according to ProPublica, he’s lobbied for Native Americans, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Bristol Bay Area Health Corp. Smith is also said to earn a more than respectable $120,000.

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29. James Sherk

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James Sherk earns $120,000 a year as special assistant to the President for Domestic Policy. But controversy hasn’t entirely eluded him. In 2019, you see, Politico revealed a 2017 memo by Sherk that, according to the site, “encouraged President Donald Trump to eliminate all job protections for federal workers and a requirement that federal contractors provide paid sick leave for employees.” The White House staffer refused to comment on the article, however.

28. James Sapp

James Sapp appears to live a rather private life. At the very least, he seems to have no Twitter account – which definitely can’t be said of the man in the Oval Office. It is known, though, that Sapp’s the associate director of Presidential Personnel, and in 2019 he was revealed to make $120,000 per year.

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27. Theodore Royer

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Like any president, Donald Trump has help writing the addresses he makes at important events. And one of the people currently employed to polish the commander-in-chief’s words is Theodore Royer, whose full job title is special assistant to the President and speechwriter. He’s had a pay bump, too. At first, his salary was reported as $115,000; now, though, it’s gone up to $120,000.

26. David Planning

In May 2019 Politico reported, “David Planning is leaving the House Financial Services Committee, where he was director of coalitions and member services, for the White House leg affairs team. He’ll be special assistant to the President for legislative affairs.” In his new role, Planning makes $120,000 per year.

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25. Caroline Moore

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Prior to joining the Trump White House, Caroline Moore worked as an economic researcher and as director of alumni relations at The Federalist Society. It’s safe to assume, then, that she was paid well, and that’s also the case in her job as director of the Office of the Chief of Staff – where she has a $120,000 salary.

24. Molly Michael

Molly A. Michael works as one of the Oval Office Operations staff – a group of people who manage Trump’s schedule and engagements. She’s just one of two people in the department at present, in fact, alongside Nicholas Luna. And as special assistant to the President and operations coordinator, she earns $120,000 a year.

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23. Theo Merkel

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Once the primary healthcare staffer for Senator Pat Toomey, Theo Merkel replaced Donald Trump’s White House special assistant Brian Blase in June 2019. In January 2020 Merkel made waves, too, when he wrote an article for CNN entitled “Trump’s efforts to make medical prices transparent are good for America.” Since he has a salary of $120,000, though, he probably has less to worry about in that area than most.

22. Meghan McCann

In 2017 Meghan McCann’s job title appeared to be “West Wing Receptionist,” while her salary was $56,000 – lower than a lot of federal agency employees. But things have changed. Since then, she’s become associate director of Presidential Personnel, making a cool $120,000 per year.

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21. Jane Lucas

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Equipped with a law degree from Georgetown University, Jane Lucas once worked as the legislative correspondent, legislative assistant and Health Policy counsel for the office of Senator John Thune. After this she moved on, however, to become a special assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, and for that role she earned $120,000 before taxes.

20. Matt Lira

Back in 2014, digital economy expert Matt Lira was the deputy executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He’s moved jobs in the interim, however, and commands a salary of $120,000 as a special assistant to the President for Innovation Policy and Initiatives. He also has a Twitter account, which perhaps unsurprisingly retweets the official White House one.

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19. Alex Latcham

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Drake University alumnus Alex Latcham was part of the election teams of both Mitt Romney and Michelle Bachmann before becoming the deputy director of Political Affairs for Outreach. And while in 2017 his yearly pay was reportedly $89,000 – higher than the average salary for government employees – now it’s even better at $120,000.

18. Rebekah Jurata

On the official White House report, Rebekah Jurata is listed as earning $120,000 per year in her capacity as special assistant to the President for Economic Policy. But she may actually be making more than that now. In October 2019, you see, she joined the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, and for that role she’ll reportedly be paid an astonishing $500,000 annually.

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17. Thomas Joannou

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Thomas Joannou wanted to be a baseball star before he got a job in the White House. When things slumped for him, though, he took a chance and applied for a job with Trump’s administration. And from humble beginnings as an intern, Joannou worked his way up the ranks to become a special assistant to the Senior Counselor and the President. He also makes $120,000 a year – which should get him into a lot of baseball games.

16. William Harrison

As you may know, William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of the United States – albeit for a mere 31 days. He still holds the record for the shortest ever tenure of a U.S. president, in fact. But, today, another William Harrison serves as Trump’s special assistant for Operations. And since he’s on $120,000 per year, it’s safe to say that he’s had better luck than his namesake.

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15. Arthur Harding

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Arthur Harding works in the Office of the First Lady, which is part of the White House Office. And, at present, he holds the position of director of Policy, which pays a perfectly acceptable $120,000 per annum.

14. Julia Hahn

Before getting a job at the White House, media pro Julia Hahn worked for Breitbart News. That seems like a logical move, as the controversial right-leaning website has been a famous cheerleader for President Trump. Specifically, Hahn is the director of Surrogate and Coalition Communications, making $120,000 a year.

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13. James Goyer

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Having previously been a legislative assistant, James Goyer was made special assistant to the President for External Affairs in February 2018. With this came a salary of $95,000 per year. But in 2019 his job title was changed: now, he’s the deputy director of the Office of Public Liaison. Oh, and his salary was upped to $120,000 – not too bad.

12. Madeleine Westerhout

Up until August 2019, Madeleine Westerhout was the director of Oval Office Operations earning an impressive $145,000 per year. Ultimately, though, she was fired for the cardinal sin of discussing Trump’s personal life with reporters. According to Politico, Westerhout told reporters at a dinner that the president didn’t want to be photographed with his daughter Tiffany as she was overweight. Ouch.

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11. David Kalbaugh

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Executive clerk David Kalbaugh is the man responsible for reviewing the various documents and orders sent between the president and Congress. And while senators may not like seeing what he sends on to them, they shouldn’t shoot the messenger. Currently, Kalbaugh enjoys a salary of $165,417 per year.

10. Emma Doyle

Without doubt, Emma Doyle is a political veteran. Previously, she was a legislative assistant to Senator Pat Toomey before going on to become chief of staff to Mick Mulvaney. Now, under the Trump administration, she’s bagged one of the most important jobs going: principal deputy chief of staff. And she’s remunerated accordingly, with a $183,000-a-year paycheck.

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9. Pat Cipollone

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Pasquale “Pat” Cipollone – the child of an Italian factory worker – was given the job of White House Counsel in 2018. His face may be familiar, too, as he’s the guy who defended Donald Trump during the impeachment inquiry of 2019. And for his legal efforts, he’s earning $183,000 a year.

8. Brooke Rollins

Brooke Rollins was not only the first woman to be elected as student body president at Texas A&M University, but also the first to speak at one of the college’s ceremonies. Now she’s assistant to the President for Strategic Initiatives, getting paid $183,000 a year. And, interestingly, she’s the one who helped pass the First Step Act to reform prisons.

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7. Mercedes Schlapp

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Before being hired at the White House, former media commentator Mercedes Schlapp made several statements that were very critical of the president. Yes, in a 2015 column for U.S. News & World Report, Schlapp called Trump’s inflammatory approach on the campaign trail both “short-sighted” and “harmful to the Republican party.” But the tables have turned: now she’s the president’s director of Strategic Communications, and for this she’s paid $183,000 per year.

6. Stephanie Grisham

Stephanie Grisham holds the dubious honor of being the first White House press secretary to not hold any press conferences. And her decision to instead engage in interviews for largely conservative-leaning media outlets drew criticism from 13 former White House secretaries, who in 2020 signed a letter demanding that Grisham change her stance. At the time, she was being paid $183,000 per year. Since then, though, she’s been moved to the East Wing as Melania Trump’s chief of staff.

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5. Kellyanne Conway

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Famously, Kellyanne Conway – Trump’s senior counselor up until August 2020 – is the woman who gave the world the phrase “alternative facts.” And, needless to say, she was strongly criticized for it. Before leaving her position, however, she made a hugely impressive $183,000 a year. Maybe, then, the furor was all worth it.

4. Stephen Miller

Stephen Miller was responsible for writing a portion of Trump’s inaugural address, and he currently serves as the president’s senior advisor. That’s despite the fact that, in 2019, he was caught up in a controversy that could have ended a less important staffer’s White House career. Miller was raked over the coals in the media for emails that he sent to a Breitbart journalist, with these allegedly warning of the dangers of immigration. The messages were also said to have put forward conspiracy theories, and commentators lined up to claim that he was a “quiet extremist.” In any case, Miller retained his role, and apparently he earns $183,000 per year.

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3. John Bolton

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Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has been labeled, among other things, a “foreign policy hawk,” an “American nationalist” and a “neoconservative” – although he rejects that last label. And as assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Bolton was on $183,000 a year before getting his pink slip in September 2019. In the aftermath, he claimed alternatively that he’d actually resigned.

2. John “Mick” Mulvaney

John Mulvaney, who goes by his nickname of Mick, was the acting chief of staff of Trump’s administration. In 2020, though, he was fired by his boss and replaced with Republican Congressman Mark Meadows. Still, Mulvaney’s last known salary was $203,500, so maybe that at least will console him.

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1. John Czwartacki

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John Czwartacki is the highest-paid member of the White House staff, earning $239,595 per year. That’s more than most of the staff members, whose salaries are capped at $183,000. Why does he make so much? Well, he’s actually on detail from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And, officially, Czwartacki’s the senior advisor to the Chief of Staff for Strategy and Stakeholder Engagement.

Of course, all of those people know the White House well. But what’s it actually like to be a resident of the famous mansion? Pretty cushy, you may think, although life there isn’t always a dream. There are the supposed ghosts to contend with, for one…

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While thousands of people walk the corridors of the White House every day, only a lucky few know exactly what it’s like to live in one of the most recognizable homes in the world. And if you’ve not been a president or a member of their immediate family, the chances are that you have no idea what goes on behind closed doors at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. So, while The West Wing may have you thinking that you’ve got a handle on White House goings-on, the following fascinating insights may just surprise you – particularly when it comes to what’s lurking in the building’s basement.

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20. The lavish mansion is larger than it looks

Make no mistake: the White House is massive. Yes, while the presidential palace may seem at a glance to have only the two floors, there are actually six levels to the building – half of which are subterranean. And altogether, a staggering 28 fireplaces are needed to warm the 55,000-square-foot space.

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There are also three elevators and eight stairways to choose from in the White House – although the route you take may be decided by which one of the 132 rooms you want to enter. And while the historic mansion is naturally unlikely to be up for sale in the near future, only a select few could ever afford to buy. In 2017, you see, Zillow suggested that the president’s pad is likely to be worth a cool $397.9 million.

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19. Even presidents’ children like to slip and slide

If you ever slid down the banisters as a kid, you’re in good company. After all, Teddy Roosevelt’s children are said to have done the same. Alice Roosevelt in particular sometimes decided not to take the stairs; instead, she slipped down the railings when she felt the need to shock any important visitors to the White House.

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And it appears that tradition has continued into the 21st century. You see, at the unveiling of George W. Bush’s White House portrait in 2012, Barack Obama claimed that his daughters, Sasha and Malia, had followed two tips they had been given from Barbara and Jenna Bush. Apparently, the former first daughters had told their successors to not only find buddies whom they could trust, but that they should also make time to slide down the banisters.

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18. Over 3,000 full-time staff call the White House “the office”

Of course, there are more people to be found within the White House than just the president and their family. Around 3,300 folks have full-time jobs at the residence, with many others in part-time or remote roles. And those staffers aren’t always in the most obvious places, either. The rather unheralded Office of Management and Budget, for example, employs more than 500 people alone.

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That’s not all, either, as the Secret Service also boasts around 3,200 special agents. And when the president finishes up their term and moves out of the White House, their employees usually leave their positions, too. Suffice to say, though, that there’s no shortage of potential replacements for such prestigious roles.

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17. The “transfer of families” can take no more than 12 hours

Yes, only half a day is allocated to move the new U.S. leader and their family into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s because the president’s term does not actually begin until 12:00 p.m. on January 20, and all activity must be totally complete before the clock ticks over to January 21.

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Within that 12-hour window, then, the White House is spruced up from top to bottom, with painting, window cleaning and carpet changes completed if necessary. And that’s even before the new president’s belongings are shipped in and put in place, which naturally takes some time by itself. All in all, it’s quite the military operation.

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16. The White House has its own furniture warehouse

One thing that may hurry the move along, however, is the clandestine storage facility that houses some of the belongings of previous White House residents. In what must be the most exclusive furniture shop in the world, incoming presidents can take their pick of interior decorations – and they have plenty to choose from, too.

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In a 2009 conversation with The Washington Times, erstwhile White House curator Betty Monkman referred to the Maryland-based warehouse as containing a “historic record of everything that has been used in the White House over the last 200 years.” And there’s yet another perk of the job; the new commander-in-chief can also choose an artwork from a national museum to display on the White House’s walls.

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15. The building is apparently haunted by a former head of state

Furniture may not be the only thing that a new first family inherits, though, as legend has it that the ghost of a former president lingers in the White House. And according to one piece of popular lore, British prime minister Winston Churchill was so spooked by seeing Abraham Lincoln’s spirit that he outright rejected the prospect of sleeping in what had once been Honest Abe’s bedroom.

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Lincoln’s apparition has also apparently caught the eye of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and Calvin Coolidge’s wife Grace. But he’s not the only one to reportedly be haunting the White House hallways. The ghostly form of Thomas Jefferson supposedly comes out from time to time, too, to give residents an impromptu violin recital.

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14. Presidents have shared the White House with some pretty cool pets

While naturally several cats and dogs have taken up residence in the White House, the mansion has also hosted some altogether more unusual animals over the years. Calvin Coolidge once owned a raccoon called Rebecca, for example, while Woodrow Wilson welcomed sheep into the grounds to tend to the grass during World War I. John Quincey Adams even roomed with an alligator and apparently relished in scaring unsuspecting guests by introducing them to the reptile.

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Back in 1863, meanwhile, Abraham Lincoln’s son Tad took to a turkey that had been intended for eating and treated him like a resident pet. The little boy is even said to have once begged his father to spare his new pal when it dawned on him that the bird may be dished out during the Christmas feast. And some believe that it was this very incident that actually inspired the presidential tradition of pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey.

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13. The White House is home to its own beehive

It turns out that the White House doesn’t only buzz with its many members of staff. In 2009, you see, a beehive was set up on the grounds in order to help fertilize Michelle Obama’s garden. And when Barack Obama ordered the introduction of “a federal strategy to promote the health of honeybees” in 2014, the first family were therefore seemingly leading by example.

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Now, tens of thousands of “first bees” swarm to and from the White House hive. And the produce of the resident pollinators isn’t only served up in presidential dinners, either. Apparently, the honey the insects create is also handed out as a present to a lucky number of people.

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12. The building also boasts its very own movie theater

Thanks to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the first family have their own 42-seat theater if they ever fancy watching a flick. Yes, ever since the 32nd president ordered a permanent picture palace be installed, American leaders have been able to wind down with movies sent straight from Hollywood – and usually before the public can see them, too.

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Yet even before the movie theater came into being, films have found their way to the White House. Reportedly, the very first picture to be shown at the mansion was controversial drama Birth of a Nation in 1915. And the space isn’t only in use as a screening room; from time to time, it’s also picked as the place in which the president can run through key speeches and addresses in private.

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11. You can throw quite the dinner party

Naturally, the White House’s cadre of chefs can whip up quite the feast – and for plenty of people, too. Up to 140 visitors can enjoy a tasty dinner at one time, in fact. And if nibbles are the order of the day, then the kitchen can do even better. Apparently, they can produce hors d’oeuvres for over 1,000 guests during any given occasion.

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In charge of the White House’s trio of kitchens is the full-time executive chef, with Cristeta Comerford having been in the role since 2005. And under Comerford’s watchful eye, the chefs serve up some delicious-sounding food. When the mansion hosted a 2019 state dinner for Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, for example, there was sunchoke ravioli to start, followed by an entrée of Dover sole with parsley crisps and a dessert of lady apple tart.

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10. You can still cook for yourself, though

If the president or their family decide to chop, peel and sauté for themselves, though, that’s perfectly possible. In such instances, there’s also a specific kitchen on offer for them to do just that. Interestingly, though, that particular space was designated solely for the professional chefs in the White House until the Clintons decided otherwise.

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Hilary Clinton certainly cooked when her husband was in office, at any rate. On one occasion, it’s said that the first lady chose to whip up a comforting mix of scrambled eggs and applesauce when her daughter Chelsea was feeling under the weather. Bill, on the other hand, was more likely to be found watching sports in the kitchen.

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9. But the president must shell out for whatever they eat

Yes, even the leader of the free world has to deal with bills, as the first family are expected to fork out for their food along with any dry cleaning they may need. And that’s something with which Laura Bush seems to agree. “It is more than fair that [the president pays] for personal items like every American household,” the first lady wrote in her 2010 memoir Spoken from the Heart.

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Bush has admitted, however, that there were “some costs that [she] was not prepared for” – like having to purchase the designer clothing befitting of a woman in her position. And among the many things that the president has to pay for, that includes some wages – specifically those for the White House wait staff.

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8. The White House’s internet is as patchy as yours

Yes, paying for food isn’t the only thing that the president has in common with us regular folk. It appears, you see, that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue isn’t the best when it comes to internet connectivity. While speaking to CBS This Morning in 2016, Barack Obama explained, “We’ve been trying to get [the internet] straight for the next group of folks, because this is an old building and there are a lot of dead spots where Wi-Fi doesn’t work.”

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During the interview, Michelle Obama added that accessing the web can be “a little sketchy” and that her daughters Sasha and Malia “can be a little irritated by it sometimes.” So, it seems that even being the President of the United States won’t always allow you to beat buffering.

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7. The basement is basically a shopping mall

Who really needs Wi-Fi when you’re one elevator away from a mall, though? That’s to be found underground, and while the space is hardly a shopping paradise, it’s likely that no other home in America can boast of having its own florists and carpentry shop. Then, of course, there’s also the famous bowling alley that Richard Nixon had fitted during his tenure.

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The basement area can be accessed via an 82-feet-long corridor, and it also harbors a paint store, an engineers’ shop, cold storage and a chocolatier among other services. It’s because of this arcade of amenities that the White House is often considered to have its very own strip mall down below.

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6. And there’s something top-secret there, too

When the White House’s West Wing disappeared behind a blockade of fences in 2010, there were rumors that work on a new underground command center was underway. Officially, though, the project was not branded as such; instead, it was said to be “an elaborate renovation of the building’s aging air-conditioning and electrical systems.”

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This explanation didn’t convince everyone, however. And a 2011 report by The New York Times only added fuel to the fire. According to the esteemed publication, a “White House official” claimed that the building work was “security-related” – although they couldn’t be any more specific.

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5. There’s even a dental surgery down there

Yes, the White House really does have its own dentist’s office and has done since the Hoover administration. But, of course, the underground surgery that Barack Obama wound up in back in 2015 when he believed he had a loose crown is much more advanced than it used to be. Initially, it’s said that the space only used to host a single chair – meaning any dental professionals who attended to the president had to use their own tools for the job at hand.

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So, what happens if the president’s teeth give them grief while they’re at Camp David? Well, again, they can be treated in private at the Maryland abode’s sister surgery. And the dentist who looks over the oral health of the first family is naturally specially picked – usually from the U.S. Navy’s National Naval Medical Center.

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4. And there’s a secret entrance to the building

It’s fair to say that not every White House guest has come in through the fabled Entrance Hall. You see, there’s a clandestine access point to the building – one that starts two blocks down from the president’s house next to a strengthened vehicle gate. From there, the path meanders to a Treasury Department wing on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Since the 1940s, a subterranean tunnel has also snaked its way from the East Wing to the Treasury Department. During Franklin D. Roosevelt’s tenure, you see, it was thought that the presidential mansion could be struck by an air raid. As a result, then, the underground tunnel was swiftly created –along with a furnished bomb shelter.

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3. The White House has hosted a prom

Yes, Gerald Ford’s then-17-year-old daughter Susan Ford held her senior prom at the most famous home in the U.S. A 2015 article by Vanity Fair claims that Susan and her Holton-Arms classmates dined on Swedish meatballs and danced in the East Room until the early hours of June 1, 1975.

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The lucky attendees even got to enjoy a trip on a presidential yacht at one point during the festivities. Altogether, then, it must have made for a memorable night. And who knows? Maybe there’ll be another prom at the White House in the future.

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2. The Press Corps had no coffee machine until Tom Hanks walked in

Living in the White House may have plenty of perks, but the mansion can still lack some basic amenities – as Tom Hanks noticed back in 2004. In particular, the Oscar-winning actor was taken aback by the absence of a coffee machine in the Press Corps office during his visit. And in a generous gesture, Hanks subsequently shelled out for just such a device on behalf of the journalists on the White House beat.

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Hanks didn’t stop there, either, as he’s since bestowed two further coffee makers in the years since. The latest of these machines arrived in 2017, along with a message that apparently read, “Keep up the good fight for truth, justice and the American way – especially for the truth part.”

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1. Residents are not allowed to open the windows

When speaking to Le Monde in 2018, French first lady Brigitte Macron lamented the fact that her American counterpart “can’t even open a window at the White House.” And during a 2015 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Michelle Obama confirmed as much, saying, “People don’t realize… we can’t do little things like open windows.”

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After her husband finished his second term in office, then, Michelle was “[looking] forward to getting in a car and rolling down the window and just letting the air hit [her] face.” And while life in the White House may seem luxurious on the surface, it seems that it can also be quite isolating. Perhaps that’s what Harry S. Truman was getting at when he famously referred to the presidential palace as a “glamorous prison.”

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