Historically, presidents have engaged in this tradition, which consists of placing the portrait of the former president in the East Room for public viewing, putting aside any political differences. The first formal meeting of this type apparently occurred in 1978, when Jimmy Carter hosted his predecessor Gerald Ford, NBC News reported.
However, as a result of recent developments regarding the Obama administration, in which Trump has accused his predecessor of being involved in a scheme to interfere with the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, it’s possible the tradition won’t exactly be continuing at the present time.
Trump hasn’t shied away from slamming the Obama administration on multiple occasions. Most recently, on Sunday, Trump called Obama “grossly incompetent” after Obama criticized “the folks in charge” for their handling of the coronavirus outbreak one day prior.
And prior to that, Trump in a series of rage tweets, called on Republican lawmakers to have Obama testify before the US Senate over what Trump sees as wrongdoing against his 2016 presidential campaign, a move some experts have suggested may set a new precedent.
"You've got a president who's talking about putting the previous one in legal jeopardy, to put it nicely. We have not seen a situation like that in history," presidential historian Michael Beschloss told NBC News. "It takes antipathy of a new president for a predecessor to a new level."
Unlike the snag hit by Trump, past administrations have been able to put aside their differences. During the George W. Bush portrait unveiling ceremony in 2012, Obama put his disagreements with Bush aside, claiming that while they “may have [their] differences politically … the presidency transcends those differences,” NBC News reported.
In a 2017 interview with the White House Historical Association in 2017, former White House curator Betty Monkman called the unveiling tradition “a statement of generosity on [the part of] the current president and first lady.”
“And it's a very warm, lovely moment,” she added.
However, both the White House and Katie Hill, a spokesperson for Obama, have declined to comment on the matter.