Nearly six months after President Trump's inauguration, there's something missing from courthouses and federal buildings across the country: his official portrait.
Typically, taking the new portrait photo that hangs in over 7,000 agencies and office buildings around the country is among the first orders of business for a new president.
Once the photo is sent to the Government Publishing Office, portraits are distributed via the General Services Administration, as well as a few other agencies, for hanging at entrances and lobbies.
The issue in the Trump administration is that the White House hasn’t sent a photo to the GPO for printing.
“GPO is standing by to reproduce copies of the president and the vice president's photos for official use in Federal facilities, and will do so as soon as the official photo files are provided to us,” said GPO spokesman Gary Somerset.
Trump isn’t the only president who has made federal buildings wait for his image.
While most do it immediately or shortly after inauguration, President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBiden needs to be both Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside Republican spin on Biden is off the mark Bill Clinton shares video update after release from hospital MORE also took his time.
“Clinton’s was about a year into office,” said a spokesperson for the White House Historical Association.
President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day RNC targets McAuliffe, Biden campaign event with mobile billboard The real reason Biden is going to the COP26 climate summit MORE had his official photo taken a week before his inauguration, and the new portraits were released just weeks later. When he was reelected, a new presidential photo was taken and posted around the country.
Those portraits were taken down at noon on the day of Trump’s inauguration, and since then frames at federal offices around the country have remained empty.
The lag is just one indicator of the White House’s casual pace on ramping up the functions of a new administration.
“It’s one of the very first thing’s that’s typically done, but then again, so is getting your political leaders in place,” said Max Stier, the president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service.
According to the PPS, Trump is well behind his predecessors in staffing the government, having submitted just 197 people for executive branch, civilian, non-judicial positions. Of those, only 46 have been confirmed by the Senate. Under Obama, the numbers were 323 submitted and 183 confirmed at the same point in his administration.
“This is a symptom of a group of individuals who collectively don’t have much prior experience in the executive branch, and I think as a result they haven’t fully understood the existing process,” said Stier.
While the portrait’s absence is largely symbolic, it may have practical repercussions for an administration that has gone head-to-head with career bureaucrats, portraying them as Obama-era holdovers or members of the “deep state” determined to block the president's agenda.
A May Government Business Council survey found that 58 percent of federal employees disapprove of Trump.
An internal State Department survey obtained by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday found frustration with Trump, in part over his decision to allow it to languish without senior staff.
“I am concerned that the dramatic reduction in budget, paired with extended staffing gaps at the most senior level, will result in the loss of not only an exceptionally talented group of people from our ranks, but will hamper our impact to fulfill our mission for decades to come,” one employee wrote.
Trump has accused the country's spies, whom he has referred to in tweets as “intelligence” in quotes, of leaking damaging information about him.
The presidential portraits on the walls of federal government offices are meant to serve as a symbol of who is setting the agenda.
“The government’s career workforce is built to serve whoever is the political leader. It’s part of their DNA, and that presidential portrait is ubiquitous and symbolizes the existing leadership,” Stier said.
That dynamic has charged the portrait issue.
In March, Rep. Brian Mast, (R-Fla), a veteran who lost both his legs in the Afghanistan War, insisted on mounting a portrait of the president at the local Florida Veterans Affairs facility where he receives care. When the facility took the portrait down, Mast said that unidentified bureaucrats told him it was because “Trump is not our president,” according to Fox News.
According to the report, the facility removed the portraits because they were not the official ones provided by the government.
But according to ABC, other offices have been happy to hang the unofficial portraits. The Pentagon mounted a Trump portrait at a special VIP entrance, while some local buildings, such as a county courthouse in Vinton, Iowa, simply printed and mounted their own.