Trump hosts New Year’s Eve party, closing out a year with legal and political setbacks

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, closing out a year that saw several notable setbacks for the former president in both the legal and political worlds.

In past years, Hollywood celebrities have attended Trump’s annual New Year’s Eve party at the Palm Beach club. But this year, the most notable figures attending the opulent black tie and long gown gala were from the former president’s political orbit, including pollster Dick Morris, legal advisor 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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What did Trump say at the event?

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.

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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 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.

What did the event look like?

What else is happening with Trump?

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 Holocaust denier, Nick Fuentes. West has made a series of explicitly antisemitic remarks recently.

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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 that 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.

How is Trump doing with voters headed into 2023?

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.

Go deeper

Trump in trouble:Republican support for his 2024 bid falls amid political, legal setbacks.

Recap:What we know about the 6,000 pages of Trump tax returns, Republican response and more.

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Read the Trump tax pdfs:Donald Trump’s tax returns released; see the dozens of files here.

Jan. 6 transcripts:Ginni Thomas regrets election conspiracy texts, Proud Boys leader toured White House.

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 protected]. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.