Trump departs Florida, where president has spent fourth of first month

Feb 20, 2017
More than 100 anti-President Donald Trump demonstrators line both sides of Southern Boulevar near Dreher Park in West Palm Beach on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017 to protest as Trump headed to the Palm Beach International Airport to return to Washington following his weekend visit in Palm Beach. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

President Donald Trump on Monday wrapped up a Florida weekend in which he named a national security adviser, got in a stealth round of golf with No. 2-ranked Rory McIlroy and headlined a campaign-style rally with 9,000 supporters.

Trump — who so far has spent one-quarter of his presidency in Florida — ended his third consecutive weekend at his Mar-a-Lago Club at 3:51 p.m. The president’s motorcade passed supporters and protesters along Southern Boulevard en route to Palm Beach International Airport, where Air Force One took off for Washington at about 4:15 p.m.

Aside from his rally in Melbourne on Saturday night, Trump was out of public view for most of the weekend. He and first lady Melania Trump attended a fundraiser for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night. On Monday, WPBF Channel 25 published footage of Trump in a golf shirt, suit jacket and red “USA” baseball cap dropping in on a luncheon at Mar-a-Lago for the Palm Beach Habilitation Center.

Trump’s administration reached the one-month mark at noon on Monday. He spent 186.5 of his presidency’s first 744 hours — 25 percent of his time — in Florida, including three of the first five weekends he’s been in office.

The Sunshine State sojourns haven’t been all leisure time. Trump interviewed at least four candidates for national security adviser over the weekend before announcing Monday afternoon from a couch in Mar-a-Lago that he had selected U.S. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster for the post.

Trump, a Republican, also met Monday with Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, a Democrat. Among the topics they discussed were federal reimbursement for the more than $1.5 million in county taxpayer costs for sheriff’s personnel to assist in security while Trump is in town.

Trump’s three Florida weekends have included about 27 daytime hours at his two Palm Beach County golf properties: Trump International Golf Club in unincorporated West Palm Beach and Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter. The president and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, along with two-time U.S. Open winner Ernie Els, golfed on the Jupiter course on Feb. 11.

But aside from the round of golf with Abe, the White House — perhaps mindful of Trump’s frequent criticisms of former President Barack Obama’s golf outings — has been tight-lipped about how much time Trump has spent playing golf in Florida.

On Sunday, for instance, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked if Trump had played golf during a 5½-hour visit to Trump International.

“I know he played a couple of holes this morning, but I’m not going to disclose any of the others that were there,” Sanders said.

On Monday, the golf blog NoLayingUp.com reported that Trump had golfed 18 holes on Sunday with McIlroy, a native of Northern Ireland who has a home in Palm Beach Gardens.

McIlroy expressed distaste for the 2016 presidential field in a Palm Beach Post interview last year, but was more generous in his assessment of Trump’s golf game.

“He probably shot around 80. He’s a decent player for a guy in his 70’s!” McIlroy said of the president in the NoLayingUp.com report.

After the round of golf with McIlroy was made public, the White House issued a new statement from Sanders acknowledging the 18 holes but also depicting the president as hard at work.

“As stated yesterday the president played golf,” Sanders said. “He intended to play a few holes and decided to play longer. He also had a full day of meetings, calls and interviews for the new NSA.”