Melania Trump to Renovate White House Rose Garden Amid 'Difficult Times'—Are Taxpayers Funding It?

First lady Melania Trump is expected to unveil renovation plans for the White House Rose Garden on Monday, as the president's re-election campaign enters its final months amid mounting criticism and falling approval rates.

News of the garden's refurbishment, which the New York Times reported on Monday, prompted a wave of concern about its financing from users on social media. As millions of Americans grapple with unemployment and economic hardships brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, some Twitter users expressed frustration about the possibility that taxpayer dollars would fund the first lady's renovation initiative.

A Trump administration official told the Times the garden refurbishment is financed by private donors, with support from the National Park Service. Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's Chief of Staff, confirmed to Newsweek that "private donations" will fund the Rose Garden project. A formal announcement issued by the White House said the same.

"Preserving the history and beauty of the White House and its grounds is a testament to our nation's commitment to the care of this landscape and our dedication to American ideals, safeguarding them for our children and their children for generations to come," the first lady said in a statement, which was included in the White House's announcement.

In a prepared statement obtained by the Times, the first lady described the renovation initiative as an "act of expressing hope and optimism for the future."

"Our country has seen difficult times before, but the White House and the Rose Garden have always stood as a symbol of our strength, resilience and continuity," the statement read.

The first lady will formally issue an announcement about the renovation project during an upcoming meeting with the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. The renovation will include a renewed walkway as well as new flowers and foliage, according to the Times.

Melania Trump's vision for the White House courtyard—which sits adjacent to the Oval Office and often serves as a backdrop for news conferences, media briefings and other appearances, especially recently—is reminiscent of its original design. Citing information from an unnamed source familiar with the renovation plan, CNN reported Monday that the first lady aims to restore the outdoor area to its design under John F. Kennedy, who originally revamped it in 1962.

Donald Trump, Melania Trump
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump enter the White House Rose Garden on May 7. The first lady is expected to announce plans to renovate the garden. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The timing of the first lady's renovation announcement comes as President Donald Trump engages in what political strategists call a "Rose Garden strategy" leading up to November's election. The term refers to a president's use of official events, including Rose Garden appearances, as a way to bolster a re-election campaign.

As of Sunday, the election was 100 days away. The president has fallen behind presumptive Democratic candidate Joe Biden in national polls, and his handling of the coronavirus outbreak and Black Lives Matter protests continue to gain considerable criticism.

Administration officials told the Times that Rose Garden renovation idea was initially conceived last year. CNN's source similarly noted that plans were first drawn up several months ago. The refurbishment is expected to take place over three weeks.

This story was updated to include information from the White House's announcement.

Updated 11:44 a.m. ET: This story was updated to include Grisham's comment.