His mood darkened as soon as he walked into his members-only club Mar-a-Lago, three days before Christmas, according to multiple sources. The changes to his private quarters, many of which were overseen by his wife, first lady Melania Trump, were not to President Donald Trump’s liking, and he was mad about it, according to a source familiar with the President’s response.
Several weeks in the works, the renovations, undertaken to make the approximately 3,000-square-foot space feel larger and updated in preparation for the Trumps post-White House life, didn’t appeal to Trump’s aesthetics, according to his reaction. Trump was also displeased with other renovations at the property, the source said, not just in the living space.
“He was not happy with it,” said the source, who noted several loud, one-sided conversations with club management almost immediately ensued.
The White House did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment .
It was Melania Trump, and her interior decorator, Tham Kannalikham, who selected many of the details on the renovations, however, not Mar-a-Lago staff, a fact of which Trump was well aware.
This is not the first time the President’s personal taste has clashed with that of his wife. Trump was also not thrilled with some of the decorative updates to Camp David, another project of the first lady, when he saw them during the Thanksgiving holiday, according to another source familiar with the President’s reaction after the visit.
The source at Mar-a-Lago noted Trump was so displeased this week with the way some of the renovations looked he asked that pieces of the décor, which consisted of white marble and an abundance of dark wood, be removed. They promptly were.
If the kick-off to his last Florida sojourn as President was rough, the days that followed would be much of the same, with Trump appearing “moody,” according to the source at the club, spending more time than usual behind closed doors and not mingling and conversing as much as he normally does with club members and senior White House staff, many of whom have in the last few years joined him there.
“The vibe is off,” said another source at Mar-a-Lago of this Christmas compared to previous ones.
Trump’s waffling on when or even if he would sign a large Covid-19 relief package and federal funding bill created a guessing-game of whether his day would be good or bad, or indifferent. Trump initially was set to sign the bill on Christmas Eve, according to a source familiar with the President’s schedule, but opted not to at the last minute. On Sunday, on his way out to dinner at his nearby Trump International Golf Club, Trump finally signed.
Changes at the club
Though he has largely publicly ignored the ravages of Covid-19 on the country, commenting little in recent weeks and seemingly taking a backseat approach as hundreds of thousands of Americans become infected each day, Trump hasn’t been able to avoid the coronavirus’ impact at his beloved sanctuary of Mar-a-Lago.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is typically the highlight of the winter season, and at Mar-a-Lago, some longtime members are avoiding the club.
“It’s just too big a risk, not worth it,” said a member who chose to not travel to Florida this year.
Yet there remain some crowded areas and an abundance people, adds another member who has been in touch with people currently at Mar-a-Lago.
“People are going for dinner as usual,” said the source, who added there seems to be “little regard for the pandemic.”
At the beach club area by the pool, it is so crowded during the day that guests are arguing over available chairs, the source said.
On Monday, the Florida Department of Health released new figures for test positivity rates. Palm Beach County was at 10.38%, the highest since November 30 and an increase since December 15 at 8.42%. The state considers anything above 5% dangerous.
A Palm Beach winter regular said they’ve heard about the lack of parties, events and fundraisers in the wealthy enclave, and the dinnertime ritual of table-hopping, going from table to table to exchange air kisses and hellos has all but disappeared. The mask-wearing mandate for businesses, establishments, public spaces and restaurants in Palm Beach was extended in Palm Beach County until January 20 and includes Mar-a-Lago, though compliance there has been hit-or-miss at best.
The Mar-a-Lago “scene,” as it were, consists largely of Trump holding court when he is in residence. Club members and their guests like to marvel at stumbling upon the President of the United States at the buffet or a party in the ballroom. At a wedding Monday night at Mar-a-Lago, Trump made a surprise appearance, entering to wave hello and congratulate the bride and groom, according to someone present at the event.
New Year’s Eve party
The fabled Mar-a-Lago black-tie New Year’s Eve party, which Trump and his family attend each year and which guests pay thousands per ticket, is still slated to take place Thursday night, said a member of Mar-a-Lago, who has heard buzz that at least 500 reservations have already been confirmed. What is unclear is whether attendees will adhere to coronavirus mitigation guidelines. At a gala earlier this month for Turning Point USA, the conservative student group, partygoers flouted mask and social distancing requirements, photos from the event showed hundreds in the Mar-a-Lago ballroom.
The President has also been relegated to a smaller batch of familiar faces to entertain and occupy his time during this Florida trip. There are no foreign leaders to host, as has often been the case during his presidency, and most of the West Wing senior staff who usually join the trip are not there.
On Sunday, Trump did not dine out with the first lady, and instead ate dinner at a table with his sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and Trump Jr.’s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, according to one witness, who said Trump had a pop-by at his table from Roger Stone, one of his longtime cronies who the President had pardoned less than a week prior. Stone entered the club wearing a “Trump 2020” face mask.
Trump’s most frequent activity — and respite — has been his morning rounds of golf, vacation recreation so many millions of Americans have forgone this year as they heed warnings about the spread of coronavirus.
On Tuesday, on his way to the golf course, the President had time to tweet about the jumbled state of proceedings back in Washington, DC, where politicians are scrambling to get eleventh-hour financial support to Americans facing economic desperation.
“Republican leadership only wants the path of least resistance,” Trump tweeted. “Our leaders (not me, of course!) are pathetic.”