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UPDATE: Trump mingles with Mar-a-Lago guests outside charity ball


President Donald Trump mingled with guests outside a charity ball at his Mar-a-Lago Club on Saturday night.

As attendees danced inside the ballroom where the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute held its gala, the president was spotted nearby, shaking hands and talking with club members and guests. 

» UPDATE: President leaves Palm Beach; aides push wiretap claim

Earlier, Attorney General Jeff Sessions also took a few moments from high-level meetings to greet guests at the estate.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Donald Trump in Palm Beach

The White House said Sessions was scheduled to meet with Trump earlier Saturday evening, and had dinner with the president and other aides — including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn. 

Sessions’ trip to Palm Beach comes in the wake of the attorney general’s recusal of his involvement in any investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Read Sessions’ statement of recusal.

» PHOTOS: President Trump surprises supporters near Mar-a-Lago

It was not clear where within Mar-a-Lago Trump’s group was dining. On past visits, he and guests have been seated on the club’s terrace. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump is meeting with members of his team tonight to talk about “a variety of issues,” according to NPR’s Tamara Keith.

Attendees of tonight’s gala posted a few photos to social media showing the decor for the event, with one image showing a stage bathed in pink light, with instruments and sound equipment set up for a live performance. 

The fundraiser’s theme is Japan, calling back to the institute’s participation in recovery efforts after a devastating tsunami hit the island nation in 2011: Bascom Palmer shipped its “Vision Van” — which its website describes as “a 40-foot mobile eye clinic” — to Sendai province.

The gala’s tables were set with towering vases filled with Japanese cherry blossoms. Decor inside the ballroom was pink and white, with floating tealights illuminating each place setting.

On Trump’s three previous trips to Palm Beach since his inauguration, he took time to visit with charity events at his lavish estate, including a red-carpet entrance into the Red Cross Ball on Feb. 4

Tickets for Bascom Palmer’s ball ran from $600 for an individual ticket, to $5,000 for four seats and membership in the Bascom Palmer’s Friend Society, to $50,000 for two tables of 10 people, an invitation to pre-gala events and recognition in the 2017 issue of the institute’s magazine.

Surveying the ballroom where 300 attended the evening gala, Dr. Eduardo Alfonso, chairman of Bascom Palmer, praised the evening’s success, calling it a “party for longtime supporters” of the institute. 

However, he remained noncommittal about whether Bascom Palmer would hold its event at Mar-a-Lago next year. 

Alfonso said Bascom Palmer has held events at The Breakers on Palm Beach and at the Sailfish Marina in the past. The gala “has moved around,” he said. “We’re malleable.” 

He added that it’s up to the institute’s donors where the gala is held. “My job is to save sight,” Alfonso said.

Read more about the president’s day in Palm Beach.



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