Donald Trump will restore the bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office as a symbolic gesture of friendship with the United Kingdom.
The President-elect said he intends to restore the artwork – a gift from the British government – when he moves into the White House this January.
He made his intentions clear in an interview with the New York Times, while sitting in front of a portrait of Winston Churchill inside Trump Tower.
It would undo a decision by Barack Obama to demote the bust to a lesser position in the Presidential Residence – one of his first decisions when taking office.
Trump made the pledge during an exchange with Arthur Sulzberger Jr, the Times‘s publisher:
SULZBERGER: All right, so we’re clear. We had a very nice meeting in the Churchill Room. You’re a Churchill fan, I hear?
TRUMP: I am, I am.
SULZBERGER: There’s a photo of the great man behind you.
TRUMP: There was a big thing about the bust that was removed out of the Oval Office.
SULZBERGER: I heard you’re thinking of putting it back.
TRUMP: I am, indeed. I am.
The statue – by sculptor Jacob Epstein – was donated to America in the 1960s and during the Obama adminsitration became something of a political football.
George W Bush displayed the statue on a desk facing him in the Oval Office.
He was so fond of it that when it had to be taken away for restoration work, British Prime Minister Tony Blair sent him another one:
However, when Obama took office in 2009, the replacement bust was removed and taken back to the British embassy.
The move was widely seen as a snub to the British, with whom Obama has been notably cooler than many of his predecessors.
When they got the original back, it was placed in the Presidential residence outside the Treaty Room, as shown below:
The White House press team, and Obama himself, have strenuously denied that they were snubbing the British by moving it.
A 2012 “fact check” post by a former Obama aide claimed that the bust had been moved to make way for Abraham Lincoln.
However, Obama himself later made a different claim while visiting London – and said he moved it out to make way for a statue of Martin Luther King.
Although he meant to mollify the British – emphasising that he sees the Churchill bust “every day, including on weekends” – his visit was overall a disaster for US-UK relations.
On the same day Obama made his ominous threat that Britain would find itself “at the back of the queue” if it dared to vote to leave the EU.
Trump later said the opposite would be true if he were in charge. In a British TV interview he said: “I mean, I’m going to treat everybody fairly but it wouldn’t make any difference to me whether they were in the EU or not.”
“You’d certainly not be back of the queue, that I can tell you.”