There’s a police barricade now permanently surrounding Trump Tower and the Tiffany next door, and on Thursday afternoon, officers braved the cold to monitor passers-by who said they needed to get through.
Past the doorway adorned by an enormous Christmas wreath with a gold bow, my bag was screened by security and then I was free to roam toward the Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry display, featuring a picture of the future first daughter modeling her products, or up the escalator to the Starbucks.
It was crowded, but no more so than any other public space on Fifth Avenue during the holidays. People walked by clutching shopping bags from Saks and Nike, stopping to gawk at the gold elevators and the small crowd of cameras and reporters camped across the tiles and trapped behind a red velvet rope, like an ugly odd holiday window display.
At the bar downstairs, at Trump Grill, two middle-aged men who identified themselves as Donald Trump supporters but requested they not be named handed me a Trump reelection pin they said was passed out by the Naked Cowboy, the guy who strums a guitar in Midtown in his underwear but who, perhaps due to the snow, was strumming up and down the escalators on this occasion, wearing a red, white, and blue robe over his otherwise bare body.
One of the middle-aged men drank red wine, while the other drank a vodka martini on the rocks out of a wine glass, a single green olive sunk at the bottom of the murky yellow liquid. He finished it.
But this wasn’t the scene that was supposed to be unfolding on Dec. 15, 2016—not even close.
The president-elect was supposed to be here on this day in the familiar marble lobby.
He was supposed to descend down the escalator from his 26th-floor office, or his 66th-floor penthouse, dressed in his standard dark suit and blue or red tie, which would hang just a few inches too low past his belt buckle.
He was supposed to tell the press—in his first press conference in 140 days, since late July, long before he was elected—how he would address his international business conflicts, which are unprecedented in their scope, to reassure us that America is still a first world democracy, reality TV star leader notwithstanding.
And then he didn’t show.
Trump’s decision to prioritize staffing his nascent administration, taking meetings with celebrities, and embarking on a “thank you” tour around the country over disentangling himself from business interests that could pose dire conflicts of interest in the White House is just another confirmation that we, as a country, are in uncharted waters. And Trump apparently doesn’t care.
“I will hold a press conference in the near future to discuss the business, Cabinet picks and all other topics of interest,” he tweeted, after news of his cancellation broke earlier this week, “Busy times!”
So busy that he found time to meet with Kanye West. So busy that he spent part of Thursday fighting with Vanity Fair because it published a negative review of Trump Grill (and the writer didn’t even see the wine glass martini). So busy that he’s continuing his “thank you” tour in Pennsylvania and Alabama this week.
Trump added added that sons Don Jr. and Eric—though noticeably not daughter Ivanka—would be managing his businesses, which he claimed he would be “leaving” before his inauguration.
Earlier Thursday, he tweeted, “The media tries so hard to make my move to the White House, as it pertains to my business, so complex—when actually it isn’t!”
If that’s true, one wonders why his allegedly busy schedule precluded him from explaining why it’s not complex on Thursday afternoon.
Trump should have appeared here before the media and explained when, exactly, Don Jr. and Eric would be taking over the business and if they would leave their posts on his transition team to do so.
He should have informed us in detail about what Ivanka would be doing in his administration and whether she would continue to run her own businesses, and why she sat in on a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
He should have explained how a trust could possibly be blind when his children are in charge of it, or when the nature of his business is, in part, to license his name, which then appears visibly on projects he’s connected to.
He should have told us why on earth the president of the United States has the spare time to executive-produce The Apprentice.
He should have answered the press’s questions calmly and respectfully, in an acknowledgement that a free press is necessary to preserve a republic.
Now, assuming he doesn’t cancel again, we’ll have to wait until January.