President Donald Trump rang in 2018 with shout-outs to his billionaire friends and a warning to his “enemies” during short remarks just before midnight at his posh South Florida club.
It’s a yearly tradition at Mar-a-Lago: As the ball gown- and tuxedo-clad crowd waits for the stroke of midnight, the estate’s owner mounts the stage to commemorate the passing of the year.
On his first New Year’s Eve as President, Trump heralded the accomplishments of his first 12 months in office, but acknowledged it hadn’t been easy.
“We’re going to have a great 2018. It’s going to be something very, very special. It’s all kicking in,” he said, according to a recording of his remarks obtained by CNN. “We have some pretty good enemies out there, but step by step they’re being defeated. They’re some bad people. Bad people. But that’s ok. Someday maybe they’ll love us. I don’t know.”
Listen to Trump’s New Year’s Eve message at Mar-a-Lago
It was a characteristically combative way for Trump to welcome the new year. In public and in private, Trump has spent much of his time in office going after those who challenge his decisions or stand in his way.
At his annual New Year’s Eve bash, Trump appeared in a festive mood, according to guests who attended. He smiled for photos and shook hands with guests who paid upwards of $750 for a ticket. He even danced — briefly — as a band played Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
On the red carpet, Trump told reporters gathered outside his ornate Louis XIV-style ballroom that 2018 would be a “tremendous year.” He was joined by his wife, Melania, glittering in rose-colored sequins, and his 11-year-old son, Barron.
Over a familiar menu that included an iceberg wedge salad — dripping with Roquefort dressing and bacon — dinner rolls, Maine lobster ravioli, sliced beef tenderloin, pan-seared sea bass, and baked Alaska for dessert, Trump rubbed elbows with at least one subset of Palm Beach’s social crowd.
For Trump it was a welcome dose of familiarity after a year that’s upended much of the life he’d enjoyed for the past several decades. Even at Mar-a-Lago, his breezy oceanfront club, changes have encroached. Secret Service agents now stand sentry outside the gates, and a velvet rope surrounds the President’s dinner table.
Still, Trump has been able to enjoy his old customs while on his 10-night stay here. He’s spent part of most days on the golf course, as did his predecessor Barack Obama while on vacation in Hawaii. He has also spent long stretches of time with a US Senator and Florida’s governor, made phone calls to troops on Christmas Eve and journeyed to a local firehouse to thank first responders.
On Saturday, Trump invited a pack of his supporters gathered on his motorcade route into his manicured resort for a photo. He emerged in his golf wear to flash a thumbs-up and thank them for standing with signs outside a gas station as his car sped past.
On New Year’s Eve, the President was again among a supportive crowd. In sequins and furs (to protect against the 60-degree chill), guests arrived at around 8 p.m. to enjoy the festivities. Among them: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his wife, actress Louise Linton, celebrating in winter white.
In front of Mar-a-Lago’s members and guests, Trump made a point to thank some of the wealthiest party-goers, including casino magnate Steve Wynn and Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt. He also reserved special praise for Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, one of Trump’s biggest media cheerleaders.
And he touted the tax cuts passed just before he arrived in Florida for his Christmas vacation, saying they were a sign of things to come. The package slashed the corporate tax rate and made temporary cuts to income taxes for most Americans.
“The country, by the way, is doing great. We just got our taxes cut,” Trump said. “We got jobs pouring into the country. Europe isn’t too happy with us because a lot of people are moving back into the United States. A lot of money is coming in.”
As he returns to Washington, Trump is planning to meet with Republican congressional leaders at Camp David to discuss infrastructure and welfare reform. He’s hoping to make the case for Republican productivity during his first State of the Union address at month’s end.
On Sunday, however, he played coy with his guests.
“I’ll tell you what,” Trump went on, “more to come. I won’t give you any more information than that.”