President Donald Trump arrived in West Palm Beach shortly after 6:30 p.m. Friday for his fifth visit to his winter White House since he took office in January.
Traveling with him were his wife Melania, his son Barron and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a billionaire who lives in Palm Beach. The White House said Trump would be joined Saturday by Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump stopped to greet supporters along his motorcade’s route as he traveled to his Mar-a-Lago Club Friday night.
About three dozen of Trump’s supporters were gathered on Bingham Island for several hours awaiting the president’s arrival. The president waved to the crowd, then proceeded with the short drive to his Palm Beach home.
Trump had planned to host a group of business leaders and doctors to discuss veterans’ health care at the Mar-a-Lago Club Friday evening, but a White House spokeswoman later said the session was not happening tonight.
The president, speaking at a Veterans Affairs session at the White House Friday with VA Secretary David Shulkin, said he planned a “major meeting” would bring together “some of the people that we put on a board” to address health care problems in a department beset by complaints about long waits and substandard care.
Among the members of that group: Marvel Entertainment Chief Executive Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, a fellow part-time Palm Beacher who supported Trump’s presidential campaign. Perlmutter met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in December as Trump was planning his transition into the White House.
“And tonight I’m having a major meeting with some of the people that we put on a board,” Trump said Friday at the White House. “Ike Perlmutter is an amazing man —Marvel — is one of the great, great businessmen of our time, and others — we’re having a meeting tonight at what we call affectionately the Southern White House. Seems to be the most convenient location. Everybody always wants to go to the Southern White House.”
A few dozen supporters of Trump waited on the tarmac at Palm Beach International Airport to greet the president and his entourage. They cheered when Air Force One landed and again when the president, the first lady and their son exited the plane.
The Trumps waved to supporters, then quickly got into a vehicle that was part of the presidential motorcade.
Pence planned to travel to Jacksonville Saturday morning and then head to Palm Beach Saturday night, where he’s scheduled to speak at a dinner hosted by The Club for Growth, an organization that lobbies for free-market policies.
Trump has spent five of the past seven weekends in Palm Beach. Those visits have included meetings and an occasional round of golf at his clubs in Jupiter and suburban West Palm Beach — as well as surprise appearances at fundraising galas at Mar-a-Lago. On one visit to Palm Beach in mid-February, he hosted Japan’s prime minister.
Before he traveled to Palm Beach on Friday, Trump met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House, a meeting punctuated by some awkward moments.
During a photo op in the Oval Office, the two did not shake hands before reporters. Trump pushed back against the notion in Europe that his “America First” agenda means he’s an isolationist, calling such a suggestion “another example of, as you say, fake news.”
Merkel maintained her composure even when Trump repeated his contention that former President Barack Obama may have tapped his phones in Trump Tower. He sought to turn the explosive charge into a light joke when asked about concerns raised by the British government that the White House is now citing a debunked claim that U.K. spies snooped on Trump.
“At least we have something in common, perhaps,” Trump said casually, referring to 2013 reports that the U.S. was monitoring Merkel’s cellphone conversations. As for the most recent report, Trump said he shouldn’t be blamed for quoting a Fox News analyst who had accused British intelligence of helping Obama spy on him.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.