Presidential Transition Includes Empty Frames Awaiting Trump Portrait

Trump and Pence's official photos will be sent to federal buildings worldwide.

ByABC News
January 28, 2017, 6:01 AM

— -- By the time Barack Obama become a private citizen last week, his portrait had already been destroyed at a health clinic in Florida.

The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System on Florida’s western coast joined thousands of other federal buildings, offices, embassies and military posts across the world in participating in the peaceful transition of portraits of one set of leaders to the next. Official portraits of the president, vice president and a host of cabinet secretaries adorn U.S. government offices from the local to federal level, and replacing them when a new team takes power can prove to be a gargantuan task.

At Bay Pines, officials collected 18 photos from nine facilities. “We were shredding the photos as they were coming,” Jason Dangel, a spokesman for the health care system, told ABC News.

Federal regulations stipulated that the portraits of Obama and the outgoing veterans affairs secretary – posted at the entrances of the system’s nine facilities – be removed by 12:01 p.m. Jan. 20, when Donald J. Trump assumed the presidency, then recycled or shredded, he said.

When Obama took office in 2009, the federal government printed more than 130,000 official photographs of Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden, many of which were hung in over 7,000 federal installations around the world. Some were made available for the public to purchase, according to the federal agency that printed them, now known as the U.S. Government Publishing Office.

The agency will print the new pictures once it receives them, along with instructions, from the General Services Administration (GSA), the federal agency that manages thousands of buildings and which, in turn, must wait for the White House to provide the photos. Spokesmen for both agencies told ABC News said they did not yet know the total number of photos that will be printed this year.

The frames holding the old photos have been saved, the GSA spokesman said in a statement.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence’s portraits will be put on display as soon as they are available, “which should be in late February or early March,” the spokesman, Matthew Burrell, said.

The White House said Trump was scheduled to sit Friday for his portrait (it had said previously he would have the photo taken Wednesday). The vice president’s office has not said when Pence’s would take place.

Government agencies hang presidential portraits -- and often the vice presidential portrait, too -- alongside pictures of their departmental heads.

Trump has not yet taken his official photograph, but that did not stop the Pentagon from hanging another picture of the president at the building’s VIP entrance, alongside Pence’s and that of newly confirmed Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Public buildings at the local level sometimes display the presidential portrait, too.

In Vinton, Iowa, just outside Cedar Rapids, the county courthouse switched the portraits without much fanfare, according to the county auditor.

“I had a couple people comment to me about putting the new one up that day,” Hayley Rippel, the county auditor, told ABC News.

She said she found a photograph of the newly inaugurated president on the White House website, adding, “We got Trump’s picture, printed it out, and went and changed it.”

ABC News’ Luis Martinez contributed reporting.

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