A Mar-a-Lago Thanksgiving: It’s All Gravy

“We’re being talked about again as an armed forces,” he said as a few club members lingered outside. “We’re really winning. We know how to win. But we have to let you win. They weren’t letting you win before.”

He continued extolling the victories during a second event at a Coast Guard station in Riviera Beach. The first lady, Melania Trump, joined him to hand out sandwiches in the station’s mess hall. The first couple had also provided assortments of fruit, muffins and cookies to the service members, some of whom were about to go out on patrol.

Mr. Trump, the master marketer, spoke of the Coast Guard in terms few presidents have used. “I think that there is no brand — of any kind, I’m not just talking about a military branch — that has gone up more than the Coast Guard,” Mr. Trump told the service members, citing what he described as the organization’s successful response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria this year. “Incredible people, you’ve done an incredible job, and I love coming here and doing this for you today.”

He noted orders for new military equipment, including Coast Guard cutters, Navy ships and Air Force planes, including one that is “almost like an invisible fighter.”

The president then returned to old holiday habits, leaving to spend a few hours at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach before returning to Mar-a-Lago, the club he owns, in an unusual fall rain.

The menu was to include traditional fare — turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes with marshmallows — as well as local produce, red snapper, Florida stone crab and a variety of baked goods, cakes and pies, according to a summary provided by Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the first lady.

Mr. Trump’s time at Mar-a-Lago and his surrounding golf courses was not, the White House told reporters, merely leisure, but was filled with meetings and phone calls, a schedule that Mr. Trump emphasized on Twitter on Wednesday.

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“Will be having meetings and working the phones from the Winter White House in Florida (Mar-a-Lago),” he wrote on Twitter before spending a few hours at his West Palm Beach golf course. Officials declined to say with whom the president spoke.


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In the years since Mr. Trump renovated Mar-a-Lago, the former estate of the cereal company heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, into an upscale club and resort, he has relished spending parts of the holiday season there, said Anthony P. Senecal, Mr. Trump’s former butler, who worked at the resort for more than 20 years. This visit was the president’s first to the club since April.

“He’s coming home,” Mr. Senecal said in an interview. “He’s going to be overjoyed that he’s at Mar-a-Lago, that he’s near the golf course, that he’s going to see a lot of friends that he hasn’t seen in a great while.”

While the living room Christmas tree and menorah are usually not up yet, the week of Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Mar-a-Lago holiday season, after the club’s annual summer closing for repairs and historic restoration, Mr. Senecal said.

Families congregate to enjoy the traditional Thanksgiving fare, and Mr. Trump generally circles the room, which is decorated with seasonal flowers, to greet the club members, who pay thousands of dollars for membership. The president, Mr. Senecal recalled, prefers white turkey meat, mashed potatoes and gravy, and usually his signature two scoops of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.

“Thanksgiving is a joyous time,” said Mr. Senecal, who said he had declined a Thanksgiving invitation this year because of medical issues. (Last year, Mr. Trump called Mr. Senecal “obviously a very troubled man” after the discovery of Facebook posts in which Mr. Senecal had called for the execution of Barack Obama.) “There’s never been any other place. Wouldn’t know what to compare it to.”

It is unclear how different the social season at the club will be this year, especially after several charities canceled events over the president’s response to the racially tinged violence in Charlottesville, Va., according to The Washington Post. But Peter Brock, a local real estate developer and a member of the club who has spent parts of the holiday season there in the past, said Mr. Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency had only elevated his star presence on the grounds.

“The bottom line is, he is always enthusiastic about coming home and seeing what he calls his people,” Mr. Brock said. “And for the most part, we are his people.”

But holiday or not, Mr. Trump is not one to pass up an opportunity to deliver a jab. In 2013, he offered these greetings on Twitter: “Happy Thanksgiving to all — even the haters and losers!” And on Thursday, he took aim at some of his favorite targets: the reporters trailing him for the duration of his Florida stay.

“I’ll ask the press to get out, and I’ll say, ‘You’re fired,’” Mr. Trump said as reporters were ushered out of the Mar-a-Lago teleconference. “And, by the way, media, happy Thanksgiving, I must say.”

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