The guest list didn’t include any Hollywood stars—but it did include one of their high-octane bosses, along with an array of other powerful politicos.
Longtime media mogul Rupert Murdoch, currently executive co-chairman of Fox Corporation, topped a heavy-hitting guest list when President Donald Trump pulled together a two-hour dinner and impromptu reception at his Rancho Palos Verdes golf course on Friday, April 5.
Murdoch founded a mammoth media empire that includes Fox News, the president’s preferred source of information. He was joined by Congress’ leading Republican, key conservative voices, the president’s son-in-law and confidante — and a collection of dazzled local officials.
Now that’s not something that happens on the Peninsula — or most anywhere this side of the Potomac — every day.
“It was exhilarating,” said Rancho Palos Verdes City Councilmember Susan Brooks, who joined the glitzy guest list at the hastily assembled event, which didn’t appear on the president’s agenda until just before Marine One, the presidential helicopter, landed at the golf course. “It was a rush.”
Also greeting guests from the Palos Verdes area at Trump National Golf Club, according to Rancho Palos Verdes City Manager Doug Willmore:
- Inner-circle adviser Jared Kushner, husband of Trump’s daughter, businesswoman and envoy Ivanka;
- Stephen Miller, a high-profile conservative activist who serves as a senior adviser for policy to the president;
- Hope Hicks, departing White House communications director, who is now communications chief for Fox;
- Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), current House minority leader and former House majority leader.
“He had quite an entourage of people with him,” said Willmore, who was invited along with all members of the RPV City Council and a few senior staff members.
When the choppers touched down at Trump National Golf Club about 7:45 p.m. Friday, it confirmed what had been rumored for hours and revealed in media reports earlier that day: The president of the United States had arrived in Rancho Palos Verdes.
What exactly took place inside the walls of the club, the president’s only West Coast golf center, once the president arrived was a question on the minds of many folks outside the resort. While the private event was cloaked in secrecy beforehand, guests were allowed to take photos and video, and talk about it afterward. Some guests posted photos on social media.
“People didn’t have too many expectations,” Brooks said.
Trump said hello to a few people when he first arrived and then went into a private lounge area with his VIP guests, where he remained for about an hour, Willmore said. Members of his inner circle did not greet anyone, but Murdoch and Kushner were seen taking photos with a few guests, Willmore said.
When Trump came out of dinner, he greeted guests in the dining area but did not make any formal remarks to the group. Earlier rumors hinted the president’s son, Eric, would attend, but he did not appear to be at the dinner.
Councilmember Brooks said Trump spent a few minutes with her and the other councilmembers. They even got a chance to do a little local lobbying — expressing their need to build a new Civic Center and various other Peninsula issues.
“My council really appreciated being able to get a few words with him and talk about a few city issues that his course is in,” Willmore said. “We appreciated that and I’m glad they enjoyed it.”
Planning for the presidential visit
Leading up to the event, Willmore said he learned on Monday, April 1, from club General Manager Lili Amini that the president would be making an unscheduled visit to the club that coming Friday.
There was no formal invitation, only that names would be on a guest list, Willmore said.
Oh — and all those invited were asked to keep it secret. They did a good job of that.
The White House official schedule had nothing logged between 6:30 and 9 p.m. Friday. But the hints started to emerge late in the week that a presidential visit was imminent:
- The club, ordinarily open to the public, did not accept reservations that day;
- The FAA closed the immediate airspace and the city closed the trails around the club;
- Road detours went up as the day went on — and so did a smattering of Trump supporters and protesters.
Guests began arriving about 5:30 p.m. Willmore said it took quite a while to get in because the Secret Service was visibly meticulous about security.
As reported on Friday by The Washington Post, once inside, all guests paid their own bills including city employees and council members, Willmore said.
Trump owns a dozen golf courses in the U.S.
According to the Post, he only spends any real time at four of them — two in Florida near Mar-a-Lago, his famed “winter White House,” one in Virginia not far from Washington D.C., and one in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Friday’s trek was the first time he’d visited the California club since becoming president. And he only made sporadic visits before then.
The arrangement at Trump National Golf Club was in stark contrast to a fund-raising event earlier in the day in Beverly Hills — a formal event during which participants paid $15,000 for dinner, $50,000 for a photo op with Trump and $150,000 to join his round-table discussion, according to an invitation obtained by City News Service.
Although tensions arose between the city and the Trump organization when it first purchased the golf course, Willmore said relations with the city could not be better these days.
“They are a great community partner. They are great to work with and deal with,” Willmore said. “I couldn’t say enough good things about them and their working relationship with the city.”