If Sean Spicer was spinning the turnout to his book party Thursday night at the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington, it might have gone something like this: It drew the largest audience ever to witness a book party, period.
Hyperbolic? Well, of course. But the former White House press secretary’s famously alternative-fact-y turn of phrase (the one he infamously used to describe his former boss’s inauguration crowd) didn’t feel too far off as far as descriptions go. Getting through the crowd gathered in the soaring lobby of the posh hotel to toast Spicer and his new book, “The Briefing,” was like navigating a jungle. That is, if the thicket of trees were made of pinstripe suits all crammed up against one another, separated only by glasses of chardonnay and tall blondes.
Half the folks on the White House payroll seemed to be there. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was posing for selfies. Her deputy, Raj Shah, was working the crowd. Bill Shine and Kellyanne Conway had made brief appearances, we were told. White House social secretary Rickie Niceta lingered by the door, while Melania Trump spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham huddled with a group of pals.
Donald Trump Jr. and his new girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, the former Fox News anchor, caused a stir when they arrived in the lobby, did a brief turn for the cameras and promptly turned tail.
“C’mon, we’re better than this,” said one woman to her apparent date as they trailed the couple out of the party, hoping for a snapshot that might make for an envy-inducing ‘gram. Her date, nevertheless, persisted.
The media, both fake and whatever Trump deems real, was there in force. Fox News reporter Peter Doocy towered over the crowd (he’s tall!), which included Breitbart News CEO Larry Solov. Also spotted were Reps. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) and Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), former Trump aides Sebastian Gorka and Jason Miller, and former RNC chair and Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus. Spicer’s mom was there, and so were a bunch of guys who shared a beach house with him when they were in their 20s. “They’re the ones over there not wearing pants,” answered one of the beach-house guys when asked where his compatriots were. (There were no trouserless men, for the record.)
Spicer was greeting book-clutching guests (oh, hello there, Roger Stone!) who formed a line to snap pictures with him in front of a step-and-repeat setup emblazoned with the Trump hotel logo. He stepped aside for a moment and popped a mint in his mouth. Wait, mints? Where’s the chewing gum he famously chewed and swallowed (he once told our colleague Ben Terris he consumed 2½ packs of cinnamon Orbitz by noon every day; Melissa McCarthy’s indelible SNL impersonation featured compulsive gum-inhaling).
“I’m into mints now,” he said. Breath Savers, since we asked, and he alternates between spearmint and peppermint. Clearly, he’s a new man these days.
And on this book tour, he’s the center of attention during the gauntlet of parties and signings and media interviews, something he’s not quite used to from his decades-long career in Washington as a political aide, where the goal was always staffing the principal, not being one. “It’s kind of humbling,” he said, noting that high-ranking administration officials were actually queuing up for a moment with him. “I look over and there’s the deputy secretary of state, and I’m like, ‘You could cut in line!’ ”