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Trump makes return to much-changed Mar-a-Lago

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In Mar-a-Lago’s disco-lit main ballroom, he watched as a large crowd serenaded his son’s girlfriend while sparklers flared. On the stone dining patio, he hosted the Brazilian President for talks as diners sat at tables nearby, crammed together like normal. Eager to appear like everything was fine, he shook hands and spoke at close range with members and guests, which that weekend included a roster of congressmen, Fox News personalities and family members.President Donald Trump’s last visit to Mar-a-Lago in March was a final gasp of “before times,” both an embodiment of the pre-Covid era and an illustration of how the President was spending his days as the virus was beginning its rampage across the country.Trump returns Friday to his Palm Beach club for the first time since, badly damaged politically because of his handling of the virus and eager for the days when the patio hummed with activity, the ballroom was packed with paying parties and the prime rib buffet was steaming.He’ll find the place has changed. The Beach Club, tennis courts, gym and spa all reopened earlier this month, though dining in the main house — where Trump has his private quarters — isn’t scheduled to restart until the start of November, according to a letter members received last month.Trump won’t stay long. He arrives late Friday evening after two rallies in Florida. He’ll cast an early ballot on Saturday morning in West Palm Beach before heading to campaign events in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin.Seven months ago, Trump’s four-day-long weekend at Mar-a-Lago encapsulated the lost days when health experts say more could have been done to prevent early spread of the disease. Even though he’d privately been telling people the pandemic was serious — including the journalist Bob Woodward — in public Trump was downplaying it.

“So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!” he tweeted from Florida on March 9.

As Trump returns to his club, the rampant virus has not waned. The 546 cases he cited in his tweet have multiplied to nearly 8.5 million; the 22 deaths to more than 220,000.Trump, meanwhile, continues to downplay the severity of the crisis, and he said during his final presidential debate on Thursday that the country was almost out of the woods.”It will go away, and as I say, we’re rounding the turn. We’re rounding the corner. It’s going away,” he said.

Last visit

Trump last arrived to his club on March 6 after touring a laboratory at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where he made false claims about the availability of tests and boasted about his own acumen in understanding the disease.”Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability,” Trump, wearing a red Keep America Great hat, said inside the agency, which since then has become a hotbed of discontent as the President undermines its scientists and health recommendations.By the time he made it to Palm Beach, the party atmosphere was in full swing — though at least one person at the resort that weekend, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, was there to convey his concerns that the President wasn’t taking the pandemic seriously enough.”People you trust, people you probably voted for, have spent weeks m inimizing what is clearly a very serious problem,” Carlson would warn his viewers a few days later.Trump, hosting his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro, did not appear to internalize the message.”We’re doing very well and we’ve done a fantastic job,” Trump said, standing in front of Mar-a-Lago’s wrought-iron front doors. Asked whether he was concerned the virus could reach the White House — which it did a few months later — Trump voiced nonchalance: “I’m not concerned at all.”Moving from his patio meetings with the Brazilians into a packed ballroom for Kimberly Guilfoyle’s birthday, Trump demonstrated little concern that guests at his club might be carrying the virus. The marble-and-gold room was jammed with revelers from the wider Republican orbit — including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who each delivered toasts.”Four more years!” shouted Guilfoyle, decked out in gold sequins, as the President stood nearby.Two weeks later, Mar-a-Lago shut down.Several people who were at the club that weekend tested positive for coronavirus, including members of the Brazilian delegation and attendees at Guilfoyle’s 50th birthday party. Others placed themselves in protective quarantine. A note was sent to donors who had attended a fundraiser that a fellow attendee had received positive test results. Out of an abundance of caution, a dog fashion show scheduled for the next week was postponed.

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Short-lived seriousness

It would only be a matter of days before Trump, adopting a short-lived seriousness about the virus, formally unveiled the government’s “30 Days to Slow the Spread,” which was eventually extended to 60 days. Businesses across Florida and the country were shuttered. Mar-a-Lago itself, forced to close ahead of schedule, furloughed more than 100 workers as the pandemic began to rage across the country.”You can’t have many hundreds of employees standing around doing nothing,” Trump said of the decision to let go workers at his resort. “There’s no customer. You’re not allowed to have a customer.”The President’s handling of the virus has earned him wide disapproval and has imperiled his political prospects. In the months since he was last at his Palm Beach club, Trump, Bolsonaro and Guilfoyle have all contracted the virus, along with large numbers of Trump’s aides.Now Trump is pushing for businesses to reopen, insisting further lockdowns aren’t necessary and only cause more harm.”We’re learning to live with it,” Trump said at Thursday’s debate. “We have no choice.”Mar-a-Lago did reopen its outdoor facilities in May with enforced social distancing guidelines for members visiting the Beach Club. Loungers and tables were spaced 6 feet apart and guests were told to keep their distance from one another “on the pool deck and in the pool/jacuzzi.”The members-only club also conducted a heightened cleaning regimen. Restrooms were to be “thoroughly sanitized hourly” and the club was to have “sanitizing stations” spread around the pool deck. The club closed for the season at the end of June and members were told that certain renovations had been made over the summer.When it opens for dining in November, spots on the patio will be harder to come by. Members were told that occupancy will be limited for dinner. And though the annual New Year’s Eve party is still on — “We can expect an even more exciting gala this year,” the letter to members read — members were told to reserve early to ensure they can secure one of the more-limited tickets.In the nearer term, the club is planning an annual Halloween masquerade ball and an election night viewing party. And earlier this week, Donald Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle hosted a lunch fundraiser in the main ballroom, where many guests weren’t wearing masks.

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Biden administration

Trump bashes Biden for rejoining WHO, Paris Climate Accord

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Former President Donald Trump slammed President Joe Biden Sunday for rejoining the World Health Organization and Paris Climate accord — and overpaying to do so.

“It is so sad,” Trump said about the US rejoining both organizations during remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference — after he pulled out during his term in the White House.

“They really are puppets for China,” he said of the WHO as the crowd booed.

“They called and they wanted us to stay in,” Trump said. “I said, ‘How much are we paying?’ ‘Approximately $500 million.’ ‘How much is China paying — a much larger, in terms of population, country?’ ‘Sir, they’re paying $39 million.’”

“I say ‘Why are we paying $500 million and they’re paying $39?’” Trump said. “I can tell you why. Because the people that made the deal are stupid.”

Trump also chided Biden for rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, calling the pact “very unfair and costly” to the US — and “without negotiating a better deal.”

“They wanted us back so badly,” he said. “I’ll tell you they wanted us. I was getting called from all of the countries. ‘You must come back into the Paris Accord.’ I said, ‘Tell me why? Give me one good reason?”

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The former president went on to highlight the double standard for America and developing countries in the deal, blasting Biden for not negotiating fairer terms upon rejoining.

“First of all, China doesn’t click in for 10 years,” Trump said. “Russia goes by an old standard which was not a clean standard.”

“But we get hit right from the beginning where is costs us hundreds of thousands and millions of jobs, it was a disaster, but they go back in. I could have made an unbelievable deal but I didn’t want to do that, surrendering millions of jobs and trillions of dollars to all of these other countries, almost all of them that were in the deal.

Trump continued, “what good does it do when we’re clean but China’s not, and Russia’s not, and India’s not.”

“They have favorable treatment,” he added “We don’t have favorable treatment.”

“[Biden] could have made a great deal– if they were going to go back in that’s fine– but they could have made a great deal. Instead they say, ‘we’re back in.’”

(NYP)

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Donald Trump

Donald Trump hints at run for US president in 2024, repeats election lies

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Former US President Donald Trump hinted at a possible presidential run in 2024, attacked President Joe Biden and repeated his fraudulent claims he won the 2020 election in his first major appearance since leaving the White House nearly six weeks ago.

Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, Trump vowed to help Republicans try to regain majorities – lost during his presidency – in the US House of Representatives and Senate in 2022 congressional elections and dangled himself as a possibility for president in 2024.

“With your help, we will take back the House, we will win the Senate and then a Republican president will make a triumphant return to the White House. I wonder who will that be?” he said, smiling. “Who, who, who will that be, I wonder.”

Trump’s weeks away from Washington do not appear to have dimmed his anger at Republicans who voted to impeach or convict in a failed congressional effort to hold him responsible for inciting a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

He singled out several such Republicans by name, like Senators Mitt Romney and Pat Toomey and House lawmakers Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, and suggested he would support candidates who opposed them in Republican primaries.

“Get rid of ‘em all,” he thundered.

Trump repeated lies he has told about his November 3 presidential election loss to Biden, and offered a withering critique of his Democratic successor’s first weeks in office.

“They just lost the White House,” the Republican former president said after criticizing Biden’s handling of border security. “But who knows, who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time.”

Trump and his allies spent two months denying his election defeat, and claiming without evidence it was the result of widespread voter fraud, before his supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 seeking to disrupt congressional certification of Biden’s win.

A civil war has erupted within the Republican Party, with establishment figures such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell eager to put Trump in the rearview mirror, and others, like Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham, believing the party’s future depends on the energy of the pro-Trump base.

Trump declared the Republican Party united behind him, with opposition coming only from “a handful of Washington, D.C., political hacks.” When he mentioned McConnell’s name, the crowd booed.

He said he had no plans to try to launch a third party, an idea he has discussed with advisers in the past couple of months.

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“We’re not starting new parties. We have the Republican Party. It’s going to be united and be stronger than ever before. I am not starting a new party,” he said.

In a straw poll, 55% of CPAC conference participants said they would vote for Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential nominating race. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis came in second at 21%.

Without Trump, DeSantis led the field with 43%, and other potential Republican candidates had single digits.

But not everyone supported Trump. A separate question on the poll asked whether Trump should run again in 2024, with 68% saying he should and 32% opposed or having no opinion.

Still, Trump fervor at the four-day CPAC event was so strong that Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., declared it “T-PAC” and participants rolled out a golden statue of the former president.

Trump’s flirtation with another run could freeze the Republican field for 2024 as other potential candidates try to decide whether they will have to compete against him. Many of those 2024 possible candidates spoke during the CPAC event.

The Biden White House dismissed Trump’s speech.

“While the GOP casts about for a path forward, President Biden is going to remain laser-focused on crushing the virus, re-opening schools, and getting Americans back to work,” White House spokesman Michael Gwin said after the speech.

An hour into his 90-minute speech, Trump dove deeply into his unfounded claims of election fraud, going against the advice of confidants who believe he needs to look to the future.

“We have a very sick and corrupt electoral process that has to be fixed immediately. This election was rigged,” Trump said. “And the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.”

“You won! You won!” the crowd shouted. Trump’s campaign and his supporters brought dozens of failed lawsuits trying to overturn the results of the election, which Biden won by more than 7 million votes. The fraud claims were repeatedly rejected by state and federal officials.

In the short term, Trump is making plans to set up a super PAC political organization to support candidates who mirror his policies, an adviser said.
(Indiatoday)

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CPAC

Trump aides have a list of topics they hope the ‘all over the place’ ex-president will keep to himself in CPAC speech

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According to Politico Playbook’s Tara Palmeri, aides to former Donald Trump have been working with him on his CPAC speech all week — to be delivered Sunday afternoon — and left one meeting wondering what will come out of his mouth once he gets going before an adoring crowd.

With an eye on keeping his hints of another presidential run in 2024 from being bogged down by more controversy and grievance-mongering over his belief that the 2020 election was stolen from him due to voter fraud, aides hope that he will stick to a script that preaches Republican Party unity.

According to the Politico report, Trump has been discussing the speech that will be his return to the public square since he lost re-election and, since he no longer has access to Twitter, aides fear that the pent-up Twitter commentary that used to keep him in the headlines will come pouring out.

As Palmeri writes, there is a list of topics advisers are hoping will not rise to the surface if the president goes off-script — which is highly likely.

Outside of complaining that he feels he was robbed of a second term due to voter fraud, the report states that his aides hope he won’t “Gripe about how he thinks he was unfairly blamed for Jan. 6,” with the NYT’s Maggie Haberman reporting, Trump has been “cautioned by advisers not to say anything that might make him a larger target for the various prosecutors considering or pursuing investigations related to him.”

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Additionally, his advisers are okay with him taking shots at Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), but want him to draw the line at publically criticizing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), with Palmeri reporting, “A Trump adviser said they got Trump to take a McConnell dig out of the script, but who knows what he’ll say.”

She added, “Sources tell me that there was a lot of nodding and agreement at a strategy meeting on Thursday between Trump and his closest aides on how to wield his power via endorsements and messaging. But some left the room feeling like their hair was on fire because, according to one of the aides, Trump was ‘all over the place.'”
(Raw Story)

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