The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

At congressional picnic, Trump calls for post-shooting bipartisan spirit to ‘deepen’

President Trump with first lady Melania Trump, lower left, greet people during the congressional picnic on the South Lawn of the White House on June 22. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The order of the night was bipartisan fun — a picnic on the lush White House lawn for members of Congress and their families, a nostalgic harking-back to more genteel times of Washington socializing.

And President Trump played the part of affable host. With wife Melania at his side, he expressed sympathy for Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana congressman wounded when a man opened fire last week at a congressional baseball practice, and praised the bravery of the two Capitol Police officers who shot the gunman.

The typically blustery warrior also made a rare appeal for cooperation between the parties, mentioning the bipartisanship expressed at the baseball game, when lawmakers drew together after the shooting. “It’s our hope that this unity that was displayed that evening can maybe continue to grow and thrive.”

But of course, this was still The Trump Show. So there was some requisite shade-throwing mixed in with the warm and fuzzy thoughts. “We’ve gotten to know many of you over the last weeks and months and developed many friendships — with politicians, can you believe it?” he said. “And some really great people, I have to say — mostly, mostly. Coupla bad ones, but that’s okay.”

And some braggadocio. He boasted that he had just given a special, “beautiful” tour of the White House to Scalise’s wife and sons. “They got the A tour! Sometimes we give the B, the C, the D — and the F-tour is like, ‘Here it is, let’s get out of here!’”

The New York-themed party included Central Park-esque touches like sailboats bobbing in the South Lawn Fountain and a giant carousel. Members of Congress, many in summer-casual uniforms of khakis and sundresses, circulated. As the Marine Band played American standards, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) was double-fisting cups of ice cream and Rep Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), watched as kids in face paint ran around the tables on the balmy grass. Also spotted among the crowd: Sens. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and David Bratt (R-Va.).

Members of the Trump administration mixed with the crowd — Attorney General Jeff Sessions, wearing a short-sleeved button-down shirt, posed for pictures, and adviser Kellyanne Conway greeted friends.

And as the sun set and the overhead strings of lights began to glow, lawmakers of both parties set their sights on one common goal: a dessert table laden with fruit pies and a sundae bar.