- George Bennett Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
A new year that President Donald Trump predicts will be “fantastic” and “tremendous” began Monday with the president conducting some Twitter diplomacy and visiting his nearby golf club before heading back to Washington.
Trump wrapped up a 10-day stay at his Mar-a-Lago estate, boarding Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport at about 4:20 p.m. with first lady Melania Trump and son Barron following him up the stairs into the plane.
Daughter Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner and their three children boarded shortly after the president. Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer — both Palm Beach residents — were also aboard the flight to Washington, as was Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin.
Hundreds of people lined Southern Boulevard to watch Trump’s afternoon motorcade. Trump supporters — some of whom were rewarded Saturday with an invitation to meet the president — far outnumbered opponents.
Supporters displayed Trump campaign flags, hand-lettered pro-Trump signs and a few signs condemning “Fake News.” One woman waved an Israeli flag and a small truck displayed a large LED sign thanking Trump for supporting Israel. A group of six women dressed as handmaids from the novel and TV series “A Handmaid’s Tale,” which depicts a Christian theocracy that subjugates women, stood along the route between signs that said “Resign” and “Phony.”
Trump rang in 2018 at Mar-a-Lago, where hundreds of tuxedoed and begowned guests who paid $600 to $750 a ticket entered the main ballroom on a red carpet and dined from a menu that included “Trump Iceberg Wedge,” Maine lobster ravioli, sliced tenderloin and sea bass and baked Alaska.
Trump, first lady Melania Trump and son Barron entered the ballroom around 9:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. The president was quickly encircled by supporters, many hoisting smartphones to get a picture of him.
Before entering the gala, Trump paused on the red carpet to speak to reporters and predict a “fantastic 2018.”
He pointed to provisions in the tax bill that he signed in Washington on Dec. 22 before heading to Palm Beach
“We’re off to a very good start with the great tax cuts, ANWR (lifting a 40-year ban on oil drilling in the Arctic National Wilderness Reserve), getting rid of the individual mandate, which was very, very unpopular,” Trump said.
“We’re going to have a tremendous year. The stock market, I think, is going to continue to go up. Companies are going to continue to come into the country. And they’re doing it now, soon to be a record clip.”
On Monday, Trump’s first tweet of 2018 criticized Pakistan, which is seen by the Trump Administration as failing to do enough to combat terrorism. The New York Times last week reported the U.S. might withhold $225 million in aid to Pakistan.
“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” Trump told Twitter followers at 7:12 a.m.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja M. Asif tweeted back: “We will respond to President Trump’s tweet shortly inshallah…Will let the world know the truth..difference between facts & fiction.”
Trump also continued to tweet in support of the large anti-government protests in Iran.
“Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration,” Trump tweeted at 7:44 a.m. “The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!”
Trump then boarded his motorcade and headed, for the eighth straight day, to Trump International Golf Club on Summit Boulevard in unincorporated West Palm Beach. He arrived shortly before 9 a.m. and was joined by PGA Tour member Fred Funk and Funk’s son, golfer Taylor Funk.
The Funks completed an impressive roster of golfers who joined the president during his latest South Florida trip. Trump played with professional golfers Daniel Berger, Jim Herman and Justin Thomas on Dec. 23 and PGA Tour member Bryson DeChambeau and former professional golfer Dana Quigley on Dec. 26.
The president returned to Mar-a-Lago from the golf outing shortly after 2 p.m., then left about two hours later for the airport.