Donald Trump held a private funeral service at the White House Friday for his younger brother Robert who died last week one day after the president flew to New York to be by his bedside.
Trump and Melania Trump cut somber figures as they watched pallbearers carrying Robert’s casket out of the North Portico of the White House and down the steps to a waiting hearse late Friday afternoon.
At one point, the president shut his eyes and took a moment at the top of the steps as his brother’s coffin was led down the steps and bagpipes played in the background.
The First Lady, dressed in a midi length belted black dress and black court shoes, comforted her grieving husband clutching tightly onto his hand.
This is the first time a deceased person was held at the US seat of government since President John F. Kennedy’s lay in state and his funeral procession started from there following his assassination back in 1963.
The service made Trump’s brother one of only a handful of private citizens to have had their funeral service in the White House in its entire history.
Trump, in a black tie and navy suit, and Melania led mourners out of the North Portico and down the steps of the White House in a procession following Robert’s black casket late Friday afternoon.
Pallbearers carried the casket – which was adorned with white floral wreaths – to a waiting hearse.
Family and friends of Robert – who died Saturday after ‘suffering brain bleeds from a recent fall’ – followed his body down the steps and watched as it was driven away.
Behind the president and First Lady was Robert’s widow Ann Marie Pallan Trump, 55, – who he wed back in March – who looked on tearfully.
She was joined by Donald and Robert’s sister Elizabeth Trump Grau, 78, and her husband James Grau, 84, a former film producer and one-time events executive at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.
Elizabeth choked back tears while bagpipes played Lord Lovat’s Lament in the background – a tribute to the family’s roots as their late mother Mary Anne MacLeod came from Scotland.
They were joined by the president’s children who were all pictured on the steps of the White House to pay their respects to their uncle.
Barron Trump towered over his siblings Donald Trump Jr. and girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner, Eric Trump and wife Lara and Tiffany Trump.
Also present were Robert’s stepchildren Genna Nixon, 31, and TJ Pallan, 25, and their respective partners Flynn Nixon and Laura Taylor.
Genna and TJ were seen comforting their distraught mother and Robert’s widow Ann Marie at the bottom of the steps.
David William Desmond, 59, Robert’s oldest nephew and the only child of Maryanne Trump Barry, from her first marriage to David Desmond, was also pictured on the steps.
Absent from the service were Maryanne Trump Barry, 83, the eldest surviving Trump child and a retired federal appeals judge.
Christopher Hollister Trump-Retchin, 44, Robert’s stepson from his first marriage to socialite Blaine Trump was also not seen.
It is not clear if they were present at the ceremony or not.
Several mourners embraced and comforted each other as the black casket was placed inside the hearse and driven away.
The president did not address reporters outside the White House but posted a tribute to his brother on social media soon after the service.
‘Robert, I Love You. Rest In Peace!’ Trump tweeted around 7 p.m. E.T.
Sources confirmed to ABC News on Thursday that Trump would be hosting a funeral service at the White House for his brother the following day.
Robert’s body would be driven from New York to the White House for the private service, the sources told ABC News.
Around 200 people were invited to the private ceremony in the East Room which was reportedly personally paid for by the president.
Trump said Monday he was considering holding a small service at the White House for Robert, saying his brother would be ‘greatly honored’ and ‘loved our country’ so it would be ‘appropriate’.
‘We’re looking at Friday. And we may do just a small service right here in the White House for my brother. We’re looking at doing that. That would be, I think, a great honor to him,’ Trump told reporters on the South Lawn.
‘I think he’d be greatly honored. He loves our country – he loved our country so much.
‘He was so proud of what we were doing and what we are doing for our country. So, I think it would be appropriate.’
The last time a deceased person was held at the White House was in 1963 for JFK after he was assassinated in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22.
Following the shooting, Kennedy’s body was flown back to the White House and placed in the East Room and set upon the same catafalque used at Lincoln’s funeral, where officials and heads of state visited to pay their respects.
His funeral procession on November 25 then started from the White House down Pennsylania Avenue to St. Matthew’s Cathedral, before his body was buried in Arlington Memorial Cemetery.
Other presidents who were assassinated also had services at the White House.
Presidents Abraham Lincoln and William McKinley lay in state in the East Room and James Garfield did not have a White House funeral but did lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.
Other presidents who died while in office, like Franklin Roosevelt, also lay in state at the White House.
It is rare for a non-president to have a funeral service at the White House.
There have been only two other known services for private citizens in history – the last being in 1936 for Louis Howe, an adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor.
This came after a Lincoln held a private service in the Green Room for his son Willie Lincoln who died in February 1862 of typhoid fever aged 11.
Woodrow Wilson’s first wife, Ellen Louise Axson Wilson died of Bright’s disease in the White House in August 1914, but it is unclear if she had a funeral service in the executive mansion.
Trump’s brother Robert died Saturday – just one day after Trump visited him in hospital in New York.
The president said in a statement announcing his death Saturday night: ‘It is with heavy heart I share that my wonderful brother, Robert, peacefully passed away tonight.
‘He was not just my brother, he was my best friend. He will be greatly missed, but we will meet again. His memory will live on in my heart forever. Robert, I love you. Rest in peace.’
Trump paid tribute to his brother in an interview with Fox & Friends Monday morning calling Robert his ‘biggest fan.’
‘When I became president, he was, I think, one of the most loyal people,’ the president said of his brother, who was the youngest of the five Trump siblings.
‘There was no jealously… There was not an ounce of jealousy.’
‘He’d go around talking about how great this is for the country and ‘it’s so incredible’ and he was my biggest fan,’ Trump told the Fox News morning show panel.
Robert, who reportedly took blood thinners, had suffered recent brain bleeds that began after a recent fall, according to a close friend of the family, who spoke to The New York Times.
Over the past few weeks, he had not been able to speak on the phone, according to the family friend.
Robert Trump had no children, but he helped raise Christopher Hollister Trump-Retchin, the son of his first wife, Blaine Trump.
Besides the president, he is survived by his second wife, Ann Marie Pallan, and his sisters, Maryanne Trump Barry and Elizabeth Trump Grau.
His brother Fred Trump Jr. died in 1981.
Robert’s death came one day after the president visited him in hospital in New York City, where he was said to be suffering from a serious condition.
Trump had been scheduled to travel to his country club in nearby Bedminster, New Jersey for the weekend, but made a stop in Manhattan first to check in on his sibling.
Robert had been admitted to the hospital and was described as ‘very ill’, however details of his illness are still not officially confirmed.
During a White House press briefing after his visit to his brother’s bedside, the president said his brother was ‘having a hard time’ but did not elaborate on why he had been hospitalized.
Robert, the youngest of the five Trump siblings, was previously hospitalized for ten days at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York in June.
He was admitted to the neurosciences intensive care unit where he was treated for a ‘serious condition’, the Daily Beast reported.
Around the same time, Robert had filed a lawsuit against his niece Mary Trump, seeking to block her from publishing a tell-all book on the president.
Mary is the daughter of the brothers’ eldest sibling, Fred Trump Jr, who struggled with alcoholism and died in 1981 at the age of 43.
Robert filed for an injunction claiming the explosive book, ‘Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man’, violated the terms of a confidentiality agreement she signed nearly two decades ago.
In a statement to The New York Times in June, he accused his niece of attempting to ‘sensationalize and mischaracterize’ their family relationship for her own financial gain.
‘I and the rest of my entire family are so proud of my wonderful brother, the president, and feel that Mary’s actions are truly a disgrace,’ Robert said.
The explosive memoir was eventually released last month after a judge agreed to lift a temporary restraining order preventing Mary from publicizing or distributing her work.
The judge said the confidentiality clauses in the 2001 agreement, ‘viewed in the context of the current Trump family circumstances in 2020, would offend public policy as a prior restraint on protected speech’.
The younger Trump had openly voiced his support for his brother over the years.
In an interview with Page Six ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Robert said he supported his brother’s campaign ‘1,000 per cent’.’
He was later seen celebrating Donald’s victory at the New York Hilton where the then president-elect delivered his acceptance speech.
Robert also spoke out in support of his brother during a brief, but rare interview at LAX airport last December, when Trump had been at the center of an impeachment trial.
When asked how his older sibling was doing, he told the cameraman: ‘I think he’s doing fantastic,’ before getting into the his car.
Robert had also held a senior position in the family business, but unlike his brother, he has generally maintained a low public profile.
He previously served as an executive for Trump Organization where he managed the real estate portfolio outside of Manhattan.
In 2016 Robert told Page Six that he was ‘gainfully retired’.
He was married to socialite Blaine Trump for 25 years until their 2007 divorce, and until his death served on the board of directors of ZeniMax Media.
The couple’s split was widely reported in the tabloids following reports that Robert had been living with his mistress – and now wife – for two years.
Prior to his death, he was based in Long Island where he lived with wife Ann Marie Pallan, his former secretary, who he reportedly married in March.
Despite their split, Robert was said to have remained on good terms with his ex-wife, who reportedly attended Trump’s inauguration in 2017.
Robert also has two older sisters.
Elizabeth Trump Grau, 78, is a retired executive from Chase Manhattan Bank, and Maryanne Trump Barry, 83, is a retired federal judge.
As the youngest of the five Trump siblings, Robert was shielded from the pressures placed on the eldest, Fred Jr, and then Donald.
He was never groomed to take over the family real estate company, and was considered by those who knew him to be the inverse of the brash, self-promotional brother who eventually did.
After graduating from Boston University, he first went to work on Wall Street, instead of immediately joining the family business.
But he eventually went to work for his brother as a senior executive at the Trump Organization.
‘You could consider him the quietest of Trumps,’ said Michael D’Antonio, a Trump biographer.
‘He was glad to stay out of the spotlight.’
Jack O’Donnell, a former Trump Organization executive who worked closely with the Trump family, told the New York Times that Robert was someone with a natural ease and good humor that his older brother lacked.
‘He was dignified, he was quiet, he listened, he was good to work with,’ O’Donnell said.
‘He had zero sense of entitlement. Robert was very comfortable being Donald Trump’s brother and not being like him.’
The pair were not always close.
In 1990, a year after Trump had put Robert in charge of the opening of the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Trump furiously attacked Robert over problems with the slot machines.
People who knew him said Robert was devastated by the fight with Trump, and the rift between them took years to heal, the New York Times said.
He reconciled with his brother when Trump decided to run for president, according to a person close to the family.