After signing tax cut, President Trump home at Mar-a-Lago for holiday

President Donald Trump arrived for Christmas break on Friday by soaking up the adulation of supporters at Palm Beach International Airport and along his motorcade route to Mar-a-Lago — and by wading into Florida’s 2018 race for governor.

After signing a landmark tax overhaul bill in Washington, the president boarded Air Force One and landed at PBIA at about 1:35 p.m. While the plane was taxiing, Trump tweeted his support for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, who flew with Trump to a rally in Pensacola this month and is expected to launch a campaign for Florida governor in early 2018.

“Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!” Trump tweeted.

Trump is making his 10th visit to Mar-a-Lago since becoming president. He’s expected to return to Washington on New Year’s Day.

As he exited Air Force One on an 80-degree afternoon Friday, Trump waved, pumped his fist and mouthed “Wow” to a cheering crowd of about 200 supporters assembled on the tarmac to greet him. Trump bypassed the limousine awaiting him at the bottom of the steps and walked over to the crowd and spent more than 20 minutes shaking hands, autographing items and talking with the group.

“Are you ready to pay lower taxes?” a microphone picked up the president asking.

Trump also called the tax bill “a very, very big deal,” said Palm Beach County Republican Chairman Michael Barnett, who came to the tarmac with a group of Haitian pastors. Barnett said Trump recognized one of the pastors, Roland Joseph, from a meeting he had during the 2016 campaign with Haitian community leaders in Miami.

Trump at one point held up a supporter’s hand-lettered sign that said: “Keep On Tweeting!”

Rabbi Alan Sherman of Wellington removed the “Israel Supports Donald Trump” yarmulke he was wearing and had the president autograph it.

Jewish voters typically tilt heavily Democratic and supported Hillary Clinton by a large margin in 2016. But, Sherman said, “I think there are a lot of Jewish people, particularly after this UN thing, that are going to come around and support this president.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Hayley this week gave a forceful defense of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy there before the UN General Assembly voted Thursday to condemn the move. Israel and the U.S. were among nine nations voting against the resolution.

Trump’s 24-year-old daughter, Tiffany, who was born in West Palm Beach, accompanied her father on Air Force One. First lady Melania Trump and sons Barron and Donald Jr. arrived in Palm Beach earlier this week.

As Trump’s motorcade headed east on Southern Boulevard toward Mar-a-Lago, it slowed to a near-stop outside Dreher Park so the president could smile and wave to a group of Jewish supporters, who praised him for commuting the 27-year sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, a former executive of a kosher meatpacking business who was convicted of bank fraud.

Trump supporters far outnumbered opponents along the motorcade route.

Trump’s Twitter praise for DeSantis raises the three-term House member’s profile in the race for the 2018 Republican nomination for governor. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a less-than-enthusiastic Trump supporter in 2016, has topped the GOP field in fundraising and early polls.

DeSantis has not opened a campaign for governor, but his federal campaign committee quickly publicized Trump’s tweet.

“I’m grateful to have the President’s support and appreciate what he has done — from appointing great judges to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to signing a pro-growth tax cut — to get our country back on track,” DeSantis responded. “As an Iraq veteran, I’m especially appreciative of his efforts to support our military and our veterans. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”

Democrat Gwen Graham’s campaign for governor was also eager to publicize Trump’s tweet.

“Floridians want a leader who will stand up to the president — not protect him. As governor, Gwen Graham will hold Trump accountable and defend our state from the president’s assault on public education, his plans to drill off our beaches, and his attacks against our most vulnerable citizens,” said Graham spokesman Matt Harringer.

While DeSantis has not announced his 2018 plans, he does not appear to be seeking a fourth term in Congress. His federal committee raised only $108,704 during the first nine months of 2017. Meanwhile, a state PAC called Fund for Florida’s Future that is expected to back a DeSantis gubernatorial run has raised more than $1.7 million since April.

Speculation about Trump showing support for DeSantis has been percolating since DeSantis and Trump flew to Pensacola on Dec. 8 for a rally where DeSantis introduced the president. According to a White House pool report, Trump’s Friday tweet came shortly after DeSantis appeared on a Fox News program that was playing on TVs on Air Force One.

Staff writers Christine Stapleton, Jorge Milian and Rachel Frazin contributed to this story.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Nation & World

U.S. Supreme Court takes up Trump travel order 3.0
U.S. Supreme Court takes up Trump travel order 3.0

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday wades into one of the more controversial policy matters of the Trump Administration, as the Justices will hear arguments on the merits of the revised effort by President Donald Trump to block certain foreign nationals from traveling to the United States, what critics often deride as his &ldquo...
Delta passenger with multiple sclerosis says airline employees tied her to wheelchair
Delta passenger with multiple sclerosis says airline employees tied her to wheelchair

A woman with multiple sclerosis says Delta Air Lines employees tied her to her wheelchair because she can’t sit up on her own and they didn’t have the chair she needed. Maria Saliagas travels to Europe with her husband every year. When she was diagnosed with MS five years ago, she didn’t want to break her tradition of traveling...
WATCH: Car thieves abduct 6-year-old from day care parking lot
WATCH: Car thieves abduct 6-year-old from day care parking lot

A 6-year-old child was abducted early Tuesday after two car thefts at a Georgia day care, authorities said.  About five minutes after the car thefts, the child was seen on surveillance video walking back to the Childcare Network Daycare, Clayton County police Sgt. Ashanti Marbury said. It’s not known where he was abandoned. ...
'Tick explosion' coming this summer, expert warns
'Tick explosion' coming this summer, expert warns

Now that summer is just around the corner, experts are warning that ticks will be coming back in full force. One tick expert in New England told Boston's WFXT that the warmer weather will cause what he called a "tick explosion." The tiny, pesky and possibly harmful arachnids are about to spring into action, and everyone should be...
Atlanta’s ex-mayor Kasim Reed doles out $500k in bonuses, gifts on way out
Atlanta’s ex-mayor Kasim Reed doles out $500k in bonuses, gifts on way out

Just days before former Mayor Kasim Reed left office, his administration showered select city employees with more than $518,000 in bonuses, and gifts that were presented during an “executive holiday party” at City Hall. >> Read more trending news  The spending spree has left the police union outraged, taxpayers fuming and council...
More Stories