Shutdown nixes Trump visit to Mar-a-Lago; party goes on with son Eric headlining


The federal government shutdown led President Donald Trump to cancel plans to celebrate the anniversary of his first year in office at a $100,000-per-couple fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday.

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As of Saturday evening, the fundraiser was still set to go on with presidential son Eric Trump and his wife, Lara Trump, and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel as headliners. About 100 donors were expected Saturday night, with their contributions going to the RNC and Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.

Eric and Lara Trump and McDaniel also spoke to about 100 local Republican activists in West Palm Beach on Saturday morning, urging them to work to preserve the GOP’s imperiled majorities in the House and Senate.

“We’re very, very lucky that we have majorities in the House and Senate. I mean, we’re very, very, very lucky. But let’s not take that for granted as a party because honestly, 2018 will be as important as ever,” Eric Trump told the Republican group at the West Palm Beach Marriott. “His great work is hugely, hugely impeded if we lose that and I’m going to fight every single day between now and those elections to make sure that those majorities are stronger than ever.”

President Trump had planned to visit Mar-a-Lago on Friday for the 12th time since taking office. But he remained in Washington as congressional Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a spending agreement to keep the government running past midnight.

After Friday’s cancellation, the White House left open the possibility of a Trump trip to Palm Beach on Saturday. The Federal Aviation Administration issued an advisory for an arrival after 2 p.m. Saturday, but rescinded it by mid-afternoon. The latest FAA notification indicated no presidential travel planned to Palm Beach County this weekend.

“No plans to go to Florida while there is a shutdown,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an email Saturday morning.

Brian Ballard, the Tallahassee lobbyist who was Florida finance chairman for Trump’s 2016 campaign, came to Palm Beach for Saturday’s event and said he understood the president’s choice to remain in Washington.

“I think it was the right decision. I haven’t talked to anyone that’s down here for the event that doesn’t agree,” Ballard said. “We’ll celebrate the one-year anniversary sometime soon.”

Trump supporters, who regularly gather near Southern Boulevard and Flagler Drive to cheer the president’s motorcade as it passes, showed up in Trump’s absence, numbering about 25 at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s the one-year anniversary of President Trump and the mainstream media is ignoring all of his accomplishments. All they want to talk about is the government shutdown over DACA and illegal immigration,” said Lamarre Notargiacomo of Vero Beach, who held an “Eliminate Sanctuary Cities” sign.

Most Senate Democrats voted against a spending bill to keep the government running for four weeks because the legislation did not address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields from deportation about 800,000 young immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors by their parents.

Another group of Trump supporters gathered a few blocks away near the garishly decorated “Trumpmobile” and other vehicles adorned with pro-Trump messages. That group left for Palm Beach to drive by an anti-Trump demonstration that police said drew 600 to 700 protesters.

Staff writer Chelsea Todaro contributed to this story.


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