Arriving in Washington on Thursday for his inaugural festivities, a buoyant President-elect Donald Trump turned a staid lunch honoring his Cabinet into an irreverent celebration of Washington's new power players — and to his own “genius.”
Stopping by the Trump International Hotel to address a luncheon attended by hundreds of supporters, lawmakers and allies, Trump made a characteristically grandiose declaration: “We have by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever assembled!”
The president-elect scanned the room complimenting and commending his Cabinet nominees as well as key senators and congressmen. Spotting House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at a table, Trump called out, “There's my Kevin!”
Trump — inadvertently, it seems — made some news in his remarks. He referred to New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, sitting next to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), as his ambassador to the Court of St. James's. Johnson has been considered a likely pick to represent the United States in the United Kingdom, but no announcement had been made until Trump spoke. Lunch attendees burst into applause to celebrate Johnson's selection.
Trump appeared at ease at the lectern, scanning the room for familiar faces. “Where's Paul?” he asked, looking for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). He recounted how they fought during the campaign, but not anymore: “He's got so much legislation to write — and he's actually got somebody who's going to sign it.”
The president-elect recognized Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.), saying “that is the name for a true patriot,” as well as Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.).
Trump noted that his treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, was not in attendance because he was in the Senate “getting grilled.” Then he singled out other nominees who had finished their confirmation hearings. He called Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), his attorney general nominee, “legendary” and said he had done “amazingly well” in his hearing.
Trump then looked for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), his nominee for ambassador to the United Nations.
“I think Nikki’s here someplace,” Trump said. “When I send her over to speak to China . . . I think we’re going to do a lot of great things, Nikki, right?”
Trump made a point of praising education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the health and human services secretary nominee. Both have come under fire from Senate Democrats. “They wanted to end his career so fast,” Trump said of Price.
As the president-elect spoke, his wife, Melania, and family members looked on from the side of the grand ballroom, which was white with gold trim and had large chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings.
“This is a gorgeous room,” Trump said of his own hotel. “A total genius must have built this place.”