Monday 20 November 2017

'It's been a lot of fun' - Donald Trump hails first month as president at gala dinner hosted by Melania

Donald Trump offers a toast Photo: Nicholas Kamm/Reuters
Donald Trump offers a toast Photo: Nicholas Kamm/Reuters

David Millward

After a month of controversy, political hostilities were suspended as Donald and Melania Trump welcomed 46 state governors to the White House.

An ebullient president hailed the first month of his presidency as he welcomed his guests to the black tie gala.

"I can say that after four weeks - it's been a lot of fun - but we've accomplished almost everything we've started out to accomplish. The borders are stricter, tighter," he said.

"We're very happy with the way things are working but, again, we've made a lot of promises over the last two years and many of those promises already are kept so we're very honoured by that."

US Vice President Mike Pence waves as he arrives Photo: Joshua Robers/Reuters
US Vice President Mike Pence waves as he arrives Photo: Joshua Robers/Reuters

The dinner was being held as some of Donald Trump’s fiercest critics gathered in Hollywood for the 89th Academy Awards.

It also represented Slovenian-born Melania Trump’s debut as a White House hostess.

She is only the second First Lady to come from outside the United States. The last was Louisa Adams, the London-born wife of John Quincy Adams, who served as president between 1825 and 1829.

Mrs Trump wore a black sleeveless dress for the occasion. Mr Trump’s daughter from an earlier marriage, Ivanka, wore a black polka-dot strapless gown.

Melania Trump listens to Donald Trump's toast Photo: Getty images
Melania Trump listens to Donald Trump's toast Photo: Getty images

The theme of the dinner was “Spring’s Renewal”, with the White House proclaiming that the executive mansion would “come to life, gleaming with the dazzling, senorial experience of eternal spring”.

Explaining the theme, Mrs Trump said: “The scents of jasmine and roses fill the air as we give thanks for this great nation and the glory of renewal.”

Striking a conciliatory note, she added: “Tonight, we come together as one Nation, leaving political labels and partisan interests behind.”

Even if the tone was friendly, politics was never too far from the surface as Mr Trump toasted his guests - albeit with a glass of water.

"It's such an easy job you have," he said as he gently mocked his guests.

Looking forward to his meetings with governors on Monday he added “perhaps health care will come up".

On social media there was some speculation over the four governors who were missing from the occasion.

Inevitably on Twitter supporters and opponents of the president swapped barbs, especially with the Oscars taking place on the other side of the country.

One wag tweeted that CNN - one of the channels banned from a White House press briefing - was watching Fox News to see if any Russians were attending the ball.

A Trump supporter took a swipe at Hollywood stars who have made little attempt to conceal their hostility to the president, dismissing them as “self absorbed”.

But back at the White House, the atmosphere was jovial and light-hearted with Virginia’s Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat and the chairman of the National Governors Association, getting into the spirit of the occasion.

Noting that Mr Trump had described him as a friend, Mr McAuliffe suggested that the president had just destroyed his political career.

Recalling the controversy over the number of people at Mr Trump’s inauguration last month, Mr Mcauliffe noted that this was a record attendance for the governors’ ball.

“In the spirit of bipartisanship, sir, we will both take credit.”

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