Trump in Palm Beach:
Hours after Iran-backed militia supporters stormed the the U.S. embassy in Iraq on Tuesday, President Trump and first lady Melania Trump walked the red carpet into the ballroom at Mar-a-Lago for his annual New Year’s Eve party.
Before entering the ballroom, the president lauded the U.S. military units that responded to the violence and defended the compound, adding that he would not allow “another Benghazi.” During the 2016 campaign, Trump often revived the 2012 deadly assault on a U.S. mission in Libya to chide his opponent, Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attack.
“Benghazi should never have happened and there will never be a Benghazi,” Trump said. “We have the greatest warriors and they got there very quickly. As soon as they saw there was a potential problem, they got there and then there was no problem whatsoever.”
In a tweet earlier Tuesday, Trump blamed Iran for the attack and said those involved would be “held responsible.” On Tuesday evening, he said he hoped peace would prevail in the Middle East.
“I want to have peace. I like peace,” he said. ”And Iran should want peace more than anyone.“
The president last hosted the traditional New Year’s Eve party in 2017. The event went on as scheduled in 2018, but the president did not attend the festivities because he remained in Washington due to the government shutdown.
Club members and guests began strolling down the red carpet at about 8 p.m. Ivanka Trump wore a red satin gown and held the hand of her 8-year-old daughter, Arabella. Her husband, Jared Kushner ushered the couple’s two young sons into the ballroom.
Two of the president’s sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr. were also in attendance. Eric and wife Lara did not bring their two children - both under the age of three. Donald Trump Jr. was accompanied by his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. The president’s youngest son, Barron, and daughter Tiffany Trump managed to escape notice as they navigated the walkway.
Other notables at the party included Rudy Guiliani, the president’s personal attorney, Fox News host Lou Dobbs, Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA.
This year’s party also comes as Trump has spent the better part of his 17-day holiday visit in Palm Beach seething over his impeachment in a partisan vote by the U.S. House earlier this month.
On Tuesday evening, the president again had harsh words for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats and the impeachment.
“The impeachment thing is a hoax, a big fat hoax,” Trump said. “We absolutely did nothing wrong. All you have to do is read the transcripts ... Or you could also do something else. Go see and speak to the president of the Ukraine. The president of the Ukraine has said loudly and boldly that ... there was no pressure.”
The president said he was unconcerned about a trial in the U.S. Senate. “It doesn’t matter because we did nothing wrong,” he said.
Trump also repeated criticism of the House Democrats and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who Trump called “corrupt.” And he again called Pelosi over-rated.
“What the Democrats did in the House was a disgrace,” he said, noting that while no Republicans supported the impeachment, three Democrats voted against it and one in their ranks, New Jersey’s Jeff Van Drew, flipped to the GOP. “The impeachment thing, I call it impeachment light. It’s a disgrace. And Nancy Pelosi should be ashamed of herself. She’s a highly overrated person.”
Trump had softer, more measured words for North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. Right before Christmas, Kim issued a veiled threat about a “Christmas gift” for the United States, and American military forces have been on alert since.
“I have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un,” the president said. “I hope his Christmas present is a beautiful vase. That’s what I’d like — a vase — Look, he likes me, I like him. We get along.”
Trump also noted Kim “signed a contract” to denuclearize and the president he said he expected the North Korean leader to abide by it.
As for the trade war with China, Trump said the first phase of a trade agreement will be signed on Jan. 15.
“I’m very excited about trade,” he said. “I’ll be going at some point to Beijing to meet with President Xi. We’ll be doing something reciprocal. But I think more importantly we will be starting negotiations very soon on phase two.”
He then wished the press a happy 2020 and asked them to be “honorable.”
“If you’re honorable, I am going to win the election by a lot,” he said. “If you’re not honorable, I’m just going to win by a little. So I’d rather you be honorable.”
In addition, Trump spent much of Tuesday focused on violence toward a U.S. diplomatic compound in Iraq. Early in the day, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad was stormed and damaged by what Trump said was an Iranian orchestrated assault.
The breaching of the embassy involved Iraqi Kateb Hezbollah protesters and others chanting anti-American slogans who smashed glass, spray painted and set the embassy walls on fire while Iraqi forces reportedly ignored diplomatic protocol to protect the grounds. The attack was believed to have been in retaliation for Sunday’s U.S. missile strikes against Kateb Hezbollah, which is blamed for killing and wounding American servicemen in Iraq in recent days.