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California

Trump tells donors in Beverly Hills: ‘We’ll never be a socialist country’

President Trump in New Mexico
President Trump boards Air Force One in Albuquerque.
(Associated Press)

President Trump headlined a Beverly Hills fundraiser Tuesday night at the mansion of Los Angeles developer Geoffrey Palmer, according to sources familiar with the event. The dinner was the second stop of a two-day swing through California that is expected to raise more than $15 million for the president’s reelection campaign.

“It was absolutely awesome. People are ready and committed to working very hard for his reelection,” said Celeste Greig, a veteran GOP activist who attended the dinner, where filet mignon and sea bass were served.

Greig, the former president of the California Republican Assembly, said Trump spoke about his efforts to end child trafficking, stop illegal immigration, create stronger trade relations and take on the crop of Democratic candidates competing to replace him. “We will never be a socialist country,” Trump said, according to Greig.

The president was joined at the event by Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, son Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle (who is also California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ex-wife). Donors, who were not told the exact location of the fundraiser, checked in at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where they showed their credentials before being whisked to Palmer’s mansion in shuttles. Actor and Trump critic Tom Arnold was at the hotel trolling Trump supporters as they arrived, Greig said.

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Earlier in the day, Trump spoke at a Bay Area luncheon at the 32,000-square-foot home of Sun Microsystems cofounder Scott McNealy.

Harmeet Dhillon, one of California’s two representatives on the Republican National Committee, rode with the president in his car from Moffett Federal Airfield to McNealy’s Portola Valley home.

“We spoke about California and legal issues. He asked about various things going on in California, [notably] the homelessness issue and how concerned he is about the health crisis, in Southern California in particular,” said Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney whom Trump has recognized at the White House for her work on behalf of conservatives on college campuses and in Silicon Valley.

At least a dozen Trump administration officials are in Los Angeles to examine the homelessness crisis, a source of criticism from the president.

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Dhillon sponsored four tables at the luncheon and said she had to turn away more than 50 people who wanted to attend.

“Everyone in the room was a supporter, and everyone to a man and woman left feeling positive and energized,” Dhillon said.

California is a conundrum for Republicans — though it is overwhelmingly Democratic, it is a major source of Republican campaign dollars. Trump lost California by 30 points to Hillary Clinton, but he received nearly 4.5 million votes and raised $333.1 million in the state for his 2016 campaign committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Trump spoke for nearly an hour at McNealy’s home as 400 supporters gathered beneath a tent dined on salmon salad and gazpacho.

Then he headed to Los Angeles, where veteran GOP activist Shawn Steel was among those who greeted him on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport.

“He told us he’s coming back. We want him to come back, not only for raising money but for rallies,” said Steel, an RNC member whose wife, Michelle Steel, is on the Orange County Board of Supervisors and is running for Congress. GOP losses in Orange County last year were among the reasons the Republican Party ceded control of the House of Representatives.

“He asked, ‘How are we doing in California? I understand it’s tough.’ I said it’s a lot better than three years ago, and secondly we have a whole new slate of candidates from the suburbs, a lot of women, a lot of minorities, a lot of immigrants,” Steel said. “He liked the sound of that.”

Trump spent his evening with hundreds of donors at Palmer’s mansion. Tickets started at $1,000 for individual dinner seats and went up to $100,000 per couple, which included a roundtable with the president, a photo opportunity, VIP reception and priority seating at the dinner, according to an invitation. The money will be split among Trump’s reelection committee as well as the Republican National Committee and state GOP groups.

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The Beverly Hills fundraiser caused a flap in Hollywood when its details first emerged.

“Will and Grace” actress Debra Messing tweeted, “Please print a list of all attendees please. The public has a right to know.”

Critics charged that Messing and fellow actors were in effect calling for a McCarthy-like blacklist, and the president denounced Messing on Twitter.

Palmer is a major Republican donor in California, and the same mansion was the site of a fundraiser in 2017 for Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence drew 200 supporters who gave to California Victory 2018, a joint fundraising committee that backed the state’s Republican congressional candidates.

Palmer was one of the pioneers of downtown’s revival in 2001 best known for his apartment complexes in downtown L.A. His “Renaissance collection” of complexes have names such as the Orsini and Lorenzo. Backers praise his work, saying he built housing in places where others wouldn’t. Critics contend that he has shown little interest in quality architecture, favoring ornate designs.

Today, Palmer’s $4.5-billion company, G.H. Palmer Associates, is the eighth-largest owner of apartments in California, according to commercial real estate firm CoStar Group.

Palmer spent $500,000 to back Republican John Cox in last year’s California governor’s race, making him the biggest donor to an outside committee supporting the Rancho Santa Fe businessman.

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The developer also poured at least $2 million into a campaign to help defeat Proposition 10, a 2018 ballot measure that would have expanded rent control statewide.


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