Trump golfs, meets with Florida's governor before hosting gala event


President Donald Trump predicted a “fantastic 2018” as he arrived at Mar-a-Lago on Sunday night for a pricey New Year’s Eve party with hundreds of his supporters.

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“We’re off to a very good start with the great tax cuts … getting rid of the individual mandate, which was very, very unpopular, as you know,” Trump said while pausing on the red carpet with first lady Melania Trump and son Barron just before 9:30 p.m.

“We’re going to have a tremendous year. The stock market, I think, is going to continue to go up. Companies are going to continue to come into the country. And they’re doing it now, soon to be a record clip.”

Asked about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s claim that his country’s nuclear capabilities are complete and he has a nuclear “button” on his desk, Trump said: “We’ll see. We’ll see.”

>> Kim Jong Un: Nuclear button is always on his desk

Earlier, Trump marked the final day of 2017 with a visit to his golf course and a meeting with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a frequent presidential dining partner whom Trump has encouraged to run for the Senate in 2018 against Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson.

A White House readout of the lunch didn’t mention politics but said Trump and Scott discussed “ongoing hurricane recovery efforts, the need to improve the nation’s aging infrastructure, and many other matters important to the people of Florida.”

Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said the Senate race did not come up during the lunch.

Scott spokesman John Tupps said the governor and president “spoke about issues that are important to Florida including the President’s commitment to speeding the repairs to the federally operated Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee and the need for federal aid for the recovery of Florida’s citrus industry following Hurricane Irma. The governor looks forward to continuing to work with the federal government in 2018 so the issues important to Floridians are made a priority.”

Trump’s New Year’s Eve preparations also included a security briefing, the White House said.

“The president has been briefed on security measures that are being taken by federal, state and local authorities to help ensure a safe and festive New Year’s Eve. We will continue to monitor throughout the night,” White House spokeswoman Helen Ferre said.

>> Trump in Palm Beach: VIPs attend party at Mar-a-Lago

Through Sunday, Trump had spent nearly 10 percent of his presidency at or near Mar-a-Lago. In 10 visits since taking office on Jan. 20, he has logged a little more than 33 days in Palm Beach County.

On Sunday morning, with a tent and plastic-covered red carpet in place on Mar-a-Lago’s western lawn for the evening’s festivities, Trump got in his presidential limousine for the 4½-mile trip to his Trump International Golf Club. He arrived at about 9:45 a.m.

Since arriving for his current visit on Dec. 22, Trump has visited the golf course on every morning except Christmas. He hosted about 60 members of the U.S. Coast Guard at the course on Friday, played with U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and two professional golfers on Tuesday, and played with three PGA Tour members on Dec. 23.

Trump and Scott — who have broken bread together at least three other times in Washington and in Bedminster, New Jersey, since Trump took office — met for lunch at 1 p.m. at Trump’s golf club.

Trump pledged in October to speed up dike repairs for Lake Okeechobee, a top Scott priority, although the White House has not provided a specific timetable or attached a dollar figure to the pledge.

Scott was one of the first elected officials to praise Trump in early 2016 and Trump publicly called for Scott to challenge Nelson during a June visit to Miami and a September visit to Southwest Florida to survey Hurricane Irma damage.

Trump had the 2018 elections in mind early Sunday. Polls suggest Democrats could make big gains, and historical trends favor the party that is out of the White House in non-presidential election years.

“Why would smart voters want to put Democrats in Congress in 2018 Election when their policies will totally kill the great wealth created during the months since the Election. People are much better off now not to mention ISIS, VA, Judges, Strong Border, 2nd A, Tax Cuts & more?” Trump tweeted from Mar-a-Lago about an hour before heading to the golf course.

Trump also tweeted on Sunday — as he did Saturday — about the wave of anti-government protests in Iran.

“Big protests in Iran,” Trump told Twitter followers early Sunday. “The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”

Trump is expected to return to Washington on New Year’s Day.


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