NEWPORT BEACH, CA — President Donald Trump was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of some 200 supporters Sunday afternoon as he stepped off Air Force One at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana. Thousands more Trump supporters gathered throughout Newport Beach as the president arrived to attend tech mogul Palmer Luckey's private fundraiser at his estate in Newport Beach.
Supporters chanted "four more years," as the president crossed the tarmac. Trump approached his supporters and chatted briefly with several of them. A man in the crowd shouted, "We love you."
The president left for the fundraiser via motorcade, passing more supporters lining the streets on the way to Newport Beach, where more advocates gathered, along with a sizable group of Armenian American protesters hoping to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.
Hundreds waving American flags and donning red MAGA hats congregated along Via Lido in Newport Beach awaiting Trump's arrival at the campaign fundraiser.
A small group of Black Lives Matter demonstrators faced off against some Trump supporters, but no violence was reported.
The motorcade passed a half-dozen Biden supporters holding a sign that read, "Honk if you vote Democrat."
Outside of Luckey's mansion, hordes of people hurled insults at reporters covering the event and made disparaging comments about the news media, with several yelling, "Fake news," according to multiple outlets.
The event, which featured a set by The Beach Boys, aimed to raise money for Trump's campaign.
Tickets started at $2,800 and reached $150,000 per couple and to take a photo with the president.
The $2,800 figure comes from the donation limit for an individual in a presidential general election campaign. The higher ticket prices were legal because the money went to the Republican National Committee and Republican state parties in battleground states.
The president appeared along with Richard Grenell, Trump's former acting director of national intelligence and ambassador to Germany.
The fundraiser consisted of Trump participating in a roundtable discussion with supporters, then giving a speech, according to the White House. It was closed to reporters, like many high-priced fundraisers conducted by presidents of both parties.
A group of Armenian American protesters gathered outside the fundraiser Sunday morning to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.
I’m in Newport Beach, where the president is holding a fundraiser this afternoon. Trump supporters are significantly outnumbered by a group of Armenian Americans holding a protest pic.twitter.com/DQfSyxOgAs
— Arit John (@aritbenie) October 18, 2020
The fundraiser was held at Luckey's Newport Bay mansion, which is situated at the tip of a manmade island.
Luckey, 28, a Cal State Long Beach alumni, sold his virtual reality company, Oculus, to Facebook for $3 billion when he was just 21. While he remained an executive at the company, he was reportedly forced to part ways with the company over political views.
The young tech mogul is currently working on a new defense technology startup and is one of the California GOP's top donors.
Luckey has donated $405,600 to Trump's campaign this cycle, according to Federal Election Commission records.
And he's donated more than $1.7 million this cycle, with much of the rest of those funds going to Republican committees and candidates, including Michelle Steel and Young Kim, who are both trying to unseat Orange County Democratic members of Congress.
The president began his day in Las Vegas, where he attended a church service. Later Sunday, Trump was scheduled to speak at a rally in Carson City, Nevada.
After announcing that he and his wife Melania Trump had contracted COVID-19 Oct. 1, Trump briefly stayed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. He made his first appearance at a campaign rally Oct. 12 since testing positive.
The event was originally slated to take place Oct. 6, but was postponed after Trump contracted the coronavirus. The president says he no longer feels ill and his doctors have cleared him for public appearances.
However, some experts have expressed concern about him holding in-person events just two weeks after being diagnosed and continue to discourage any large public gatherings.
Trump was scheduled to leave the fundraiser at 1:30 p.m. and board Air Force One at 1:55 p.m.
The rushed visit was part of a busy campaign weekend for the president. Trump spoke in Michigan and Wisconsin on Saturday. He is scheduled to appear at two Arizona rallies on Monday, in Prescott and Tucson.
"I think it's fantastic," Orange County Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker said of the fundraiser. "He understands the critical importance of Orange County in taking back the House seats, and the vote base and donor base in Orange County is still very loyal to the Republican cause."
All of the congressional seats in the county were won by Democrats two years ago and Republicans are battling to win some of them back.
The last time Trump visited California was in September to meet with Cal Fire officials and Gov. Gavin Newsom to discuss the state's largest fire season on record.
The City News Service contributed to this report.