Who was at Trump’s 2024 Mar-a-Lago announcement, and who steered clear?

Why were so many of Trumpworld missing? Scheduling conflicts? Personal political ambition? Maybe the weather?

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Wednesday 16 November 2022 22:10 GMT
Donald Trump switches Maga slogan to ‘Make America Great And Glorious Again’

Twice-impeached, one-time president Donald Trump launched a third White House run on Tuesday night in a low-energy, dark, uninspiring speech that included few surprises.

The campaign announcement was criticised even before it began for its poor timing, so close to a heavily disappointing midterm election for Republicans, and ahead of a runoff election in Georgia that sees Trump-backed Herschel Walker face off against Senator Raphael Warnock in early December.

While most of the Trump family was in attendance, there was a distinct absence of Republican political leaders and sitting lawmakers, only a smattering of former administration figures, and — in a room of supposedly ardent fans — people were seen trying to leave before the former president concluded with longwinded remarks.

While an enthusiastic crowd did gather at Mr Trump’s Palm Beach home, where the FBI uncovered a trove of 11,000 illegally taken government documents, not everyone you’d expect was there.

Here’s who showed up in the ballroom at Mar-a-Lago, and who did not.

The Trump family

Mr Trump entered the ballroom at 9pm on Tuesday to much fanfare, accompanied by his wife, former first lady Melania Trump. In his speech, Mr Trump acknowledged that Ms Trump had a rough time during their four years at the White House, even as he announced his intention to return there in January 2025.

It hasn’t been a joyride for our great first lady. It hasn’t been a joy ride,” he said as he invited her to stand up and take applause from the crowd at Mar-a-Lago.

“I go home and she says ‘you look angry and upset’ and I say just leave me alone ... it hasn’t been the easiest thing but she has been a great first lady and people love her.”

On Saturday, the Trump family was all in attendance for Mr Trump’s younger daughter Tiffany Trump’s wedding, but not everyone stayed on the extra few days for his big announcement.

Ms Trump and her husband Michael Boulos are now believed to be on honeymoon, which is an undeniably good reason to miss such a dour event. Also apparently absent was her mother, Marla Maples, Mr Trump’s second wife — she largely stayed out of the limelight during his presidency, though did show up with Tiffany at a campaign event in 2020.

Kimberly Guilfoyle, Jared Kushner, Eric Trump, and Lara Trump (Getty Images)

Of the other Trump children, Eric Trump, the second eldest child from his first marriage to the late Ivana Trump, was there with his wife Lara Trump — a staunch supporter of the former president, who often speaks on his behalf to the media.

Also present was Barron Trump, the former president’s son with his current wife, who entered the ballroom with his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, and sat beside his mother.

Mr Kushner, once a senior adviser to the then-president, was conspicuously not accompanied by his wife, Ivanka Trump. Ms Trump, who also served in her father’s administration, released a statement on Tuesday evening saying that she “[did] not plan to be involved in politics” and would instead be focussing on her family.

“While I will always love and support my father, going forward I will do so outside the political arena,” she wrote, adding that she was “proud of many of our administration’s accomplishments” — perhaps notably not all of them.

Another glaring absence was Donald Trump Jr, the former president’s eldest son, who was represented by his fiancee Kimberly Guilfoyle. Citing an unnamed source, Insider reports he was on a “hunting trip in the Mountain West” and “couldn’t get a flight out to make it back for the speech because of bad weather”.

Mr Trump Jr instead posted support for his father on Instagram and Twitter.

The MAGA stalwarts

It wouldn’t be a proper Trump event without some people. For example, the former president’s longtime political adviser and friend Roger Stone was seen posing for selfies in the crowd before the speech.

Former California Rep Devin Nunes, whom Mr Trump awarded the presidential Medal of Freedom, and is now the CEO of the Trump Media & Technology Group — parent company of Truth Social — was also spotted in the crowd.

MyPillow founder and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, who appears at almost every rally either to rile up the crowd or chat with right-wing streaming broadcasters ahead of the speeches, was broadcasting his own videos from the ballroom. One included a claim that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis would endorse Mr Trump after the Mar-a-Lago announcement.

This did not happen, and needless to say, the governor — considered Mr Trump’s greatest rival within the Republican Party — was not in attendance.

My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell (AP)

Former administration officials

There were some familiar faces from the Trump presidency in attendance, but perhaps not as many as would have been expected.

Those spotted in the crowd included Russell Vought, former deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget; former campaign adviser Jason Miller; and former White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley, per Insider.

There’s certainly a contingent with their own presidential aspirations who were either not invited or chose not to attend.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are all known to have such ambitions. They are certainly not alone and a host of other political figures — some with allegiances to Mr Trump, some his foes — have also expressed interest in running for the White House.

This leads us to…

Republican lawmakers

Senators Ted Cruz, Tim Scott, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio are known potential rivals to Mr Trump, as are governors Glenn Youngkin, Greg Abbott, Larry Hogan, Kristi Noem, Asa Hutchinson, and former Governor Chris Christie. It’s therefore understandable why none were in attendance.

However, it seems even staunch allies of the former president were unable to attend, with Congress back in session, the midterms just seven days prior, and the looming runoff election hanging over them.

Georgia Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene announced her full support for Mr Trump and endorsed him via social media and to the press, but did not travel down to Florida.

Florida Rep Matt Gaetz, another strong ally of the former president, was supposed to attend, but told the Associated Press on the day that he would not be able to got due to inclement weather affecting his flight down to Palm Beach from Washington, DC. Mr Gaetz said he would support Trump “in spirit”.

Like Ms Greene, he posted a statement of support on social media and told the press the former president has his support “1000 per cent”, but also mentioned Mr DeSantis during his remarks.

Any senators who wished to attend likely shelved their plans as party leadership elections were scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Former first lady Melania Trump, left, and Rep Madison Cawthorn, centre, at Mar-a-Lago (AP)

This left just one member of Congress at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday night. North Carolina Rep Madison Cawthorn, who lost his primary in early 2022 and so will be leaving Congress in January, did manage to make it down to Palm Beach from Washington.

Upon losing the support of his party in May, Mr Cawthorn said: “The time for gentile [sic] politics as usual has come to an end. It’s time for the rise of the new right, it’s time for Dark MAGA to truly take command.”

A statement that gels with the former president’s feelings about a return to Washington.

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