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The 'lonely' President: How Trump spent his Christmas vacation

In the 11 days since lawmakers have ...

Posted: Jan 3, 2019 10:01 AM
Updated: Jan 3, 2019 10:01 AM

In the 11 days since lawmakers have failed to reach a solution to re-open the government due to ongoing disputes over border security and wall funding, President Donald Trump was behind closed doors for the past six.

Throughout the holiday season, Trump has been largely on his own, holed up at the White House with the exception of a trip to Iraq -- the government shutdown upending his scheduled trip to his Mar-a-Lago club, where his family rang in the new year without him.

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The result? A restless President stewing and passing the time with a litany of tweets -- 98 tweets and retweets to be exact -- since the shutdown began at midnight on Saturday, December 22.

"I am all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security," he tweeted Christmas Eve.

The President spent the long hours watching television, phoning advisers and tapping out furious tweets castigating Democrats for opposing his border wall. He invited some allies, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, over for lunch. He did work from the Oval Office for a few hours each day, people familiar with his schedule said, though did not have many formal engagements on his calendar.

Trump burst back into the public eye after six days behind closed doors for a 90-minute session before reporters, bouncing from topic to topic, and trying to make the case for his border wall.

He also reflected on his solo time.

"I was here on Christmas evening, I was all by myself in the White House, it's a big, big house except for all those guys out on the lawn with machine guns. Nicest machine guns. I was waving to them," he told reporters in the Roosevelt Room. (The first lady was at the White House from Christmas Eve through the 27th.)

"Secret Service and military, these are great people. They don't play games. They don't like waves. They don't even smile," Trump said. "But I was there all alone with the machine gunners, and I felt very safe ... But I was hoping that maybe somebody would come back and negotiate, but they didn't do that."

Home alone

Though the partial government shutdown didn't directly affect many White House staff, the West Wing was largely empty due to the holidays. Trump was the first President to spend Christmas at the White House since President Bill Clinton stayed home weeks from ending his tenure in 2000.

The White House press shop, which remained locked to the press for days at a time, did not issue any daily guidance on the President's schedule from the day the shutdown began until Wednesday, failing to account for how Trump spent his days at the White House or any meetings that may have taken place.

His only outing from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the week after his Iraq trip was a visit across town to Vice President Mike Pence's residence, where he dined with Pence, his new acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who made the brief trip back to Washington but was back in Palm Beach the next day.

Trump also passed the time taking a break from his usual cable news viewing for some public broadcasting.

"I watched last night PBS, I haven't seen it in a while, PBS, and I just noticed, you know, I was in the White House all by myself in the White House for six, seven days, it's very lonely," he told reporters Wednesday.

Another factor possibly contributing to that restlessness: a lack of golf. Wednesday ties Trump's previous record for the longest he has gone without golfing as president: 38 days. The last day Trump golfed was November 25 while in Palm Beach for Thanksgiving. Thursday will be the longest he has gone without golfing while in office.

Trump had told several advisers that he believed it would be political suicide to travel to Mar-a-Lago during the shutdown, or even play golf at his resort outside of Washington.

Meanwhile, in Palm Beach ...

Although he repeatedly lamented being alone, Trump was insistent that his family remained in Palm Beach without him while he eschewed his vacation.

"My family was down in Florida. I said, 'Stay there and enjoy yourself,' but I thought I should be here just in case people wanted to come and negotiate the border security," Trump said.

First lady Melania Trump returned from Palm Beach, where she had been spending the holiday with son, Barron, on Christmas Eve. The first couple participated in the annual tradition of taking children's phone calls to NORAD before attending a Christmas Eve service at the National Cathedral and departing on their clandestine trip to Iraq.

Melania Trump traveled back -- her third trip aboard a government plane during the shutdown -- to Palm Beach on December 27, where she hosted the club's annual New Year's Eve bash, a $1,000 ticketed black-tie affair. Since then, Melania Trump has had "daily calls" with her husband, a White House official told CNN.

Additionally, Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, former Fox News personality and current America First Policies vice chairwoman Kimberly Guilfoyle, spent the holidays at Mar-a-Lago, along with his ex-wife, Vanessa Trump, who stayed on the club property.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were also present in Palm Beach, though Kushner briefly returned to Washington for Friday evening's dinner. Eric Trump and his wife, Lara, spent time at the club over the holidays, departing for Lara's hometown of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, for Christmas, but returning later in the week.

Tiffany Trump spent Christmas with her mother, Marla Maples, in New York City, and then traveled to Asia.

New Year's Eve

In her husband's absence, Melania Trump hosted the New Year's Eve party in a decidedly more low-key manner than usual. Eric and Donald Trump Jr. also stepped into their father's role at the club's festivities, delivering a thank you speech to members, per an attendee.

The duo told the crowd it was the first year that the host wasn't here, but added that he was back at the White House fighting for the country. Some club members had expected the President to appear via video message, but he did not.

To the amusement of attendees at the club's celebration, Guilfoyle took the microphone on the stage to sing "Happy Birthday" to the President's eldest son, who turned 41 on December 31, in the style of Marilyn Monroe, presenting him with a cake.

Vanessa Trump was not present for the evening's festivities, but Trump Jr. posted a New Year's Eve photo with three of their five children.

In Washington, it's unclear how the President rang in 2019, or if he stayed awake until midnight. He did, however, wish everyone, "INCLUDING THE HATERS AND THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA" a happy new year via Twitter.

The President's three eldest children and their significant others returned to Washington and New York on Tuesday. The first lady and Barron Trump are expected to remain in Palm Beach for several more days.

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