Trump's New Year's Eve party at Mar-a-Lago: Who was there (and who wasn't)?
PALM BEACH — Former President Donald Trump rang in the New Year on Saturday night with hundreds of Mar-a-Lago members and a few political cronies.
In past years, Hollywood celebrities have attended Trump's annual A-list New Year's Eve party at the Palm Beach club. But this year, the most notable, high-profile figures attending the opulent black tie-and-long gown gala were from the former president's political orbit, including pollster Dick Morris, legal adviser Rudy Giuliani and pillow maker Mike Lindell. All walked the red carpet but did not comment about Trump or their expectations for 2023.
Trump's second-oldest son, Eric, and his wife, Lara, attended as well. However, it did not appear two other adult children who figured prominently in Trump's political endeavors, Donald Jr. and daughter Ivanka, were at the event.
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Trump, who declared his 2024 White House candidacy in November, spoke briefly to the media as he and Melania Trump made their way into the ballroom.
Trump said he hoped the Russia-Ukraine war "will get straightened out very quickly" and said he is bullish about his campaign going into 2023, adding he had received some poll numbers that looked "fantastic," but offered no details. He also sounded familiar themes.
"We need a strong border and we need it now," he said, and then added: "We also have to bring back the economy ... with inflation destroying our country."
But Trump notably sidestepped questions about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' call for an investigation of COVID-19 vaccines, a key legacy of Trump's single term in the White House, and whether he supported a national abortion ban. He also walked away from a question about how this week's second anniversary of the Jan. 6 violence and alleged coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol should be observed.
A year of setbacks
The festivities closed out 2022, which for Trump ended with a series of significant setbacks and defeats.
The former president was blamed for the Republican Party's failure to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, taking control of the U.S. House with a thin and fragile majority and losing coveted governorships. A jury in New York also convicted his business of tax fraud and other charges.
A week after launching his campaign, Trump sparked a political firestorm by having dinner with Kanye West, now known as Ye, and a white supremacist youth leader, Nick Fuentes.
The House panel investigating the Jan. violence concluded its work in late December by issuing a lengthy report, releasing transcripts of its witness interviews — all in the wake of holding a series of televised hearings that proved deeply damaging to Trump over the second half of the year. Then a separate House committee released Trump's tax returns, which showed he paid only minimal taxes in the first and last year of his presidency.
Other investigations continue swirling around Trump, including a Justice Department probe into why the former president kept government documents, including top-secret files, at Mar-a-Lago, and his efforts to pressure Georgia election officials to find him thousands of votes after the 2020 election.
All the while, as 2022 progressed, Trump's standing in voter surveys eroded.
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A USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll released last month showed 61% of Republican voters surveyed said they wanted someone other than Trump to be the party's nominee in 2024. And that other candidate increasingly is DeSantis, Trump's erstwhile political ally, who outpolled Trump by 56% to 33%.
Last week, Trump stoked talk of a third-party candidacy, if he were not to win the GOP nomination next year, by sharing an article on his Truth Social headlined "The Coming Split" that called on him to seek the presidency as a non-Republican.
Trump, though, on Saturday evening said he is optimistic.
"I think we're doing really well," he said. "We got some poll numbers yesterday that were fantastic. We're going to do very well with Make America Great Again. It's very simple, Make America Great Again."
Antonio Fins is a politics and business editor at the Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at email@example.com. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Donald Trump held his annual New Year's Eve party at Mar-a-Lago.