The White House Has a Vermin Problem

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Early today, NBC 4 in Washington published several dozen pages of White House work orders it had obtained. Within the long, mundane requests (“please turn temperature up 1.5 degrees higher”) and repairs one expects with a building over 200 years old were orders which suggest there are several types of infestations—mice, cockroaches, and ants—in one of our nation’s most iconic structures.

The orders suggest mouse problems in Vice President Mike Pence’s office as well as the situation room—and requests to “pick up dead mouse” in several others. Roach issues abound in at least four rooms.


Tempting as it is to consider a hail of bugs as some meager form of comeuppance by a symbol of democracy onto a unprecedentedly unpopular administration, the fact remains—the White House is old as hell. Obama fended off roaches. Carter handled mice. More accurately, the General Services Administration has been keeping the home of all presidents since Adams from turning to dust, a task which often involves endless pest removal.

So no, bugs and such are neither abnormal in the White House, nor do they bear any causal relationship to its present residents’ competence. But buried within the work orders was one particularly alarming request concerning Chief of Staff John Kelly’s office. Verbatim:

Ants in the window sill

Chief of Staff office. I ,

Removed a lot by killing

them, can someone tell

Who is “I” here? Tell... what? Was this note written at the exact moment John Kelly or his hapless assistant was devoured by ants? May one or both of them find peace in the next life.

[The Hill, NBC]