I've been waiting at the White House for hours when my saviour comes running towards me — a young, blonde woman in high heels and a pencil skirt.

I quickly dump my handbag on the X-ray machine conveyor belt as she congratulates the security guards on the room's surprisingly pleasant scent of vanilla, before we start racing towards the house together.

The young woman, a press assistant I later discover is a 22-year-old former Disney star, explains breathlessly that we have to move fast to catch "The Departure", an odd development given I've been standing outside all day waiting for my credentials to be cleared.

Several people with cable TV backgrounds were recently hired by the Mr Trump.
Several people with cable TV backgrounds were recently hired by the Mr Trump.

This, other media assured me as they arrived and left again, is standard practice when you have the double impediment of being not only from overseas, but not even based in Washington.


We arrive at our assigned spot to find a horde of TV cameras and reporters, some on step ladders, including a Dutch duo I had met earlier outside making their own fruitless emails and calls to the press office.

"Which side is the he coming out?" journalists shout, as others report on proceedings to camera. Press assistant Caroline Sunshine and the crowd of security guards don't know, or won't reveal the answer.

Soon after, Donald Trump emerges in a long overcoat, striding purposefully past his military-style Marine One helicopter to shake hands with a crowd of applauding punters standing behind a rope. He climbs aboard, followed by aides but no Melania, who had been scheduled to join him but is rumoured to be annoyed about the whole Stormy Daniels porn star business.

The helicopter departs with a great roaring and whirring of blades that feels dangerously close, before disappearing over the Washington Monument, carrying the President to Air Force One and on to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the weekend.

One member of the press corps remarks that he fears they will all one day be killed in a "red mist" when one of these blades flies off.

It is a controversial exit, given this was the weekend of the March for Our Lives, but the President is famously unconcerned about optics.

Teams of journalists will now fly commercial to Mar-a-Lago in order to watch Mr Trump make his return after a Sunday golf session.

Once the helicopter is gone, the media are shooed away by the guards, who briefly shout at me for not wearing my pass before handing me over to Ms Sunshine, as foreign media must be accompanied at all times.


The international relations and economics graduate has been in the job only a few weeks and informs the older, male security guards that they need to work on communication around these events.

The former Los Angeles resident, I later discover, appeared in the movie Marmaduke with Owen Wilson and Emma Stone before landing a role in a Disney Channel series about teen dancers called Shake It Up and most recently appeared in the movie Mommy, I Didn't Do It.

Presdient Donald Trump's departure is a carefully orchestrated show. Photo / AP
Presdient Donald Trump's departure is a carefully orchestrated show. Photo / AP

A former White House and Republican party intern, she is one of several people with cable TV backgrounds recently hired by the Mr Trump. CNBC host Larry Kudlow was named earlier this month as head of the White House National Economic Council and Fox News analyst John Bolton will be the next national security adviser.

She leaves me in the small and uninviting press briefing room, where journalists are waiting for an official "lid" on the day's events so they can leave. It has been a frustrating day, with the standard daily briefing with Sarah Huckabee Sanders cancelled earlier after Mr Trump appeared to sign his omnibus bill in front of only a select group of journalists, the "White House press pool".

They tell me the room is packed these days, since the international press "can't get enough" of Mr Trump.

Next to the podium on the room's small stage is a window made of thick, bulletproof glass, while the glass at the back next to the cameras is wafer-thin. A disgruntled operator, showing us the sights of the dingy briefing room, tells a story of how of how someone shot at the windows from outside with an AK-47 in 1994. It seems many here are scared for their lives.


The dull, cramped room is decorated with a shelf of souvenirs from around the world, including a kangaroo scrotum coin pouch representing Australia.

On the wall is a framed photo on the room's opening by George Bush, as well as the scissors from this illustrious occasion. Another framed and signed declaration by the White House Correspondents' Association states: "The privileges of the Press Room, upon complaint and hearing, are revocable."

Ms Sunshine is back. She suggests we leave through the back before opening a door and changing her mind. As she herds me back out of the gate, she tells me there may not be many 22-year-olds who are as interested in the long hours and intense grind of a White House job, but "it's an honour to serve her country".

Three levels of the imposing White House are visible above ground, with the rest beneath. The basements include workrooms, bombs shelters and a bowling alley added by Richard Nixon.

I'm told to look out for the famous red-tailed hawks that live in the rafters of the building. While squirrels are a common sight outside the gates, not many survive within.

Back on Pennsylvania Avenue, I note the absence of sewer grates or rubbish bins, a precaution against bombs.


Clearly, there is a strong consciousness of danger here. But it's covered with a Disney smile.