President Donald Trump, facing dimming approval ratings and a stalled legislative agenda, rolled out his greatest hits on Wednesday evening – ripping into CNN, assailing House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and hailing his party’s string of special election wins.
Before a rapt audience of 300 supporters, major GOP donors, and party leaders attending the first fundraiser of his 2020 reelection campaign at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., the commander-in-chief returned to his comfort zone.
Speaking for around 30 minutes at the closed-door event, according to two people present, the president continued to bash a favorite target – the media, and in particular CNN. Trump derided the network for errors and presented himself as a victim of their reporting, which he described as deeply unfair. At one point, the president turned his fire on one of the network’s liberal commentators, Van Jones.
With Republican Party benefactors in attendance, the president highlighted the special election victories – especially last week’s for a Georgia congressional seat. The president poked fun as the unsuccessful Democratic candidate, Jon Ossoff for not residing in the suburban Atlanta district he was running for. Ossoff, the president joked, raised over $20 million yet couldn’t get an apartment in Atlanta.
Then there was Pelosi, who Republicans aggressively tied to Ossoff – and whose future as Democratic leader has been questioned in the wake of the Georgia race. Republicans, Trump joked, needed Pelosi to stay atop her caucus.
One organizer estimated that around $10 million was raised – a sum that will divided between Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee. Some of those attending donated more than $30,000. A number of major GOP figures were in attendance, including the RNC’s chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, and finance chair Steve Wynn, both of whom the president praised.
After the event was over, a number of Trump allies were seen roaming the lobby of the hotel, including oil executive Harold Hamm and senior campaign aide Brad Parscale.
Despite a series of legislative setbacks, Trump highlighted what he’d so far accomplished, pointing to his deregulation efforts. He also discussed health care legislation, which is stalled in the Senate, and said it needed to get done.
The president also lavished praise on his besieged chief of staff Reince Priebus, a former RNC chairman who remains plugged into the national party’s operations. Priebus had become famous, the president told the crowd, and joked that no one could pronounce his name.
Trump described his chief of staff has invaluable – and noted that he’d been spending time putting out a lot of “fires.”
Outside of the hotel, about 60 protesters shouted “What do we want? Health care. When do we want it? Now!” in an area around the corner from the fundraiser. The shouts were still audible from the hotel. About half the crowd disbanded once Trump was inside.
Diamond Naga Siu contributed to this report.