Trump arrives in Palm Beach amid storm over remarks

After departing Washington amid another self-ignited firestorm, President Donald Trump arrived at his Mar-a-Lago estate on Friday evening to begin a three-day weekend.

Air Force One landed at Palm Beach International Airport at about 6:45 p.m. with the president, first lady Melania Trump and son Barron drawing cheers from a crowd of about 40 supporters who gathered on the tarmac. Trump waved, gave a few triumphant fist pumps and briefly clasped his hands together to acknowledge the crowd, but didn’t go over to shake hands and sign autographs as he did in his last two visits.

PHOTOS: President Trump’s 11th visit to Palm Beach

As Trump’s motorcade made the roughly 5-mile trip to Mar-a-Lago, about 70 supporters cheered from the sidewalk in front of the Publix on Southern Boulevard and another group of Trump fans held signs and waved flags near the bridge that crosses the Intracoastal Waterway between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach.

Trump created an uproar late Thursday when attendees at an Oval Office meeting on immigration said Trump questioned why the U.S. should accept more immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa.

Members of the local Haitian community and even some stalwart Trump supporters like Florida Gov. Rick Scott were critical.

“If this report is true, it is absolutely wrong to say or think this. I do not think this way, nor do I agree with this kind of sentiment. I represent Florida, and we are an amazing melting pot where over 250 languages are spoken,” Scott said in a statement released by his office.

The White House did not initially deny the comments, but Trump pushed back on Friday morning.

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,” the president said in a tweet at 7:28 a.m. “What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!”

Robert Pierson of West Palm Beach dismissed the controversy as overblown as he waited along Southern Boulevard with his wife and 11- and 16-year-old daughters to get a glimpse of the motorcade.

“It’s just like that ridiculous Billy Bush video,” Pierson said of the October 2016 release of a 2005 tape in which Trump boasted that his celebrity status allowed him to kiss women and grab their genitals. “It was a private conversation. People are feigning outrage. Could he have used a better choice of words? Maybe. Am I turned off by it? Not really. He’s a real person. Everybody in private speaks in similar ways.”

Bob and Nora Burd also defended Trump as they waited to watch the motorcade.

“I’ve been to Haiti and it’s unbelievable - the place is dirty, disgusting. I know people don’t like the way he says things but what he’s saying is true,” said Nora Burd, who said she is a native of Colombia. “I believe there has to be a wall. A lot of bad people are coming. We have to control who comes because then everyone will want to come.”

Bob Burd said the vulgar language attributed to the president “may not have been the right comment at the right time, but that’s the way he is. I don’t want him to sugarcoat it.”

This is Trump’s 11th visit as president to Mar-a-Lago. He has logged about 34 days in South Florida — primarily at Mar-a-Lago or one of his two golf courses in Palm Beach County — and has been in Palm Beach during at least a portion of 46 days since taking office.

Staff writers Jorge Milian and Carla Trivino contributed to this story.

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