President Trump and First Lady Melania Pay Their Respects to Late George H.W. Bush at U.S. Capitol
Former President George H.W. Bush's body will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda through Wednesday, during which time the public is allowed to visit and pay their respects
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were among the mourners to visit the remains of the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush, while he lies in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda this week.
The pair arrived hand-in-hand as they bowed their heads in prayer with the commander-in-chief also saluting Bush’s casket before leaving. The visit by the Trumps was a total of 75 seconds, according to CNN.
Bush’s body will remain on the Lincoln Catafalque in the Rotunda through 7 a.m. EST Wednesday, which will stay open to accommodate public mourners.
Bush died late on Friday night at age 94. His spokesperson Jim McGrath confirmed the news, writing in a statement, “George Herbert Walker Bush, World War II naval aviator, Texas oil pioneer, and 41st President of the United States of America, died on November 30, 2018. He was 94 and is survived by his five children and their spouses, 17 grandchildren, eight great grandchildren, and two siblings.”
“He was preceded in death by his wife of 73 years, Barbara; his second child Pauline ‘Robin’ Bush; and his brothers Prescott and William or ‘Bucky’ Bush.”
Hours before the Trumps’ arrival, Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell paid their respects at the Rotunda.
Bush is the first president to lie in state since the death of Gerald Ford in 2006. Including Bush, only 32 people have ever lain in state in the Rotunda, including Sen. John McCain earlier this year.
In a presidential proclamation, Trump declared that Wednesday would be dedicated to Bush’s memory and that flags should be lowered to half-staff in his honor for 30 days.
“President George H.W. Bush led a long, successful and beautiful life,” Trump tweeted. “Whenever I was with him I saw his absolute joy for life and true pride in his family. His accomplishments were great from beginning to end. He was a truly wonderful man and will be missed by all!”
Over the weekend, a presidential historian who knew Bush told PEOPLE that the former president included Trump in his funeral in order to not “stiff a sitting president.”
Douglas Brinkley, a Rice University history professor and author, said that Bush’s decision was motivated by his reverence for the office that he once held.
“For Bush 41, Trump is the president, and he does not want to stiff a sitting president, so in his own way, it is magnanimous that he is having Melania and Donald Trump come,” Brinkley said of Bush.
Brinkley further suggested that Bush had mixed feelings about the Trump era. “I think that [Bush] had such respect for the institution of the presidency that Trump annoyed him because he was trying to divide the country at times,” Brinkley told PEOPLE.
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In April, the first lady attended Bush’s wife Barbara Bush‘s funeral, but the president did not.
The White House said in a statement in April that Trump was skipping Mrs. Bush’s funeral “to avoid disruptions due to added security, and out of respect for the Bush family and friends attending the service,” the Associated Press reported at the time.