WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican donors paid $35,000 apiece to hear familiar a message from President Donald Trump: The media, particularly CNN, keep trying to take him down, and yet Republicans just keep on winning elections. He noted with pride that his party had won four special elections this year.
The president was whisked a few blocks from the White House to the Trump International Hotel, his name-branded Washington venue, for an evening of hobnobbing behind closed doors Wednesday with major party financiers, including Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn.
One attendee stood out: Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, part of a small group of Republicans whose objections just a day earlier had doomed — at least for now — the Senate’s effort to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Trump did not single out Heller, but Wynn, the lead fundraiser for the Republican National Committee, gently jabbed him by urging all Republicans to come together to support the president’s agenda.
Breaking with the tradition of his predecessor, Trump barred reporters from the event, despite an announcement earlier in the day that a pool of reporters would be allowed inside. Two people in the room, demanding anonymity to discuss a private event, relayed the messages given by Trump and Wynn.
“It’s a political event, and they’ve chosen to keep that separate,” White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said when asked why the event was closed to the media.
Trump’s first re-election fundraiser comes some 40 months ahead of Election Day. Joined by first lady Melania Trump and top advisers, he held court for about two hours at an event attended by about 300 people that raised more than $10 million. The money is to be spread among Trump’s campaign, the RNC and other GOP entities.
Security was tight at the hotel, where guests in long gowns and crisp suits began arriving around 5 p.m. But the event also drew critics. The president’s motorcade was greeted by dozens of protesters, who hoisted signs with slogans like “Health care, not tax cuts” and chanted “Shame! Shame!”
Among the event’s guests: Longtime GOP fundraiser-turned television commentator Mica Mosbacher and Florida lobbyist and party financier Brian Ballard.
The Trump International Hotel has become a place to see — and be seen — by current and former Trump staffers, lobbyists, journalist and tourists. Several Washington figures of considerable influence popped into the lobby even though they didn’t…