Politics | Analysis
February 19, 2017 at 7:47 PM
When he returned from his rally in Melbourne, Fla., on Saturday night, President Trump's official day was over. The press pool that travels with the president was given a lid about 7:45 p.m., indicating that he wouldn't be doing anything else that would be worth covering. "Goodnight from Palm Beach," The Hill's Jonathan Easley wrote in an email to the White House press corps.
But Trump's night wasn't over. Unbeknown to reporters, Trump decided to make one more public appearance: at an elegant fundraising gala being held for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, held at Trump's Mar-a-Lago property and headlined by musician David Foster.
An Instagram video captured Trump's entrance. "We did not plan this," an announcer says as the president works his way through the crowd. At the Melbourne event, Trump appeared in a suit without a tie; for the gala, he dressed up a bit.
Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the media about Trump's appearance at the event during a brief press availability Sunday. More than 800 people attended the event, reporters were told, with Trump talking to "quite a few" of them. One reporter asked if Mar-a-Lago guests had special access to the president, prompting Sanders to reply that "the president is extremely accessible to most of America" and is the "most accessible president that [she's] ever seen."
That question has followed Trump ever since it was reported last week that he held an impromptu discussion with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the dining room at Mar-a-Lago, an area reserved for those who've paid the $200,000 annual membership fee and their guests. (That fee doubled after Trump won the election.) The White House insisted that nothing classified was discussed during the meeting, which involved the leaders and various staff members poring over documents while club members and their guests marveled — and recorded the moment for posting on social media.
On Saturday, Politico published leaked audio from another Trump property, the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. That property was the locus of activity in November and December when Trump was interviewing potential Cabinet members. At one point, Trump jokingly invited guests to attend the meetings. "You may wanna come around," he said. "It'll be fun." At another moment, Trump told his paying guests that they were "the special people."
Although presidents often attend events that are closed to the media, it's unusual for a president to attend an event that isn't on his listed calendar and without reporters being informed about it at all. Of course, it's also unusual for a president to own a club that might be the site of a formal fundraiser for charity, and for him to therefore decide to swing by.
Who was in attendance and who he may have spoken with is unknown. If the video above is any indicator, though, he received a warm reception — and the charity received a nice boost for its decision to hold the event at Mar-a-Lago.
Jenna Johnson contributed to this report.