Thanks to a “tip from a trusted source,” Benny Johnson of the Independent Journal Review reserved a table at the BLT Steakhouse inside the Washington D.C. Trump Hotel on Saturday, where President Trump would be having a private dinner. No media allowed; the event didn’t even appear on the President’s official schedule. What a perfect opportunity for Johnson to see firsthand what Trump is like without the presence of cameras and dishonest journalists!
Read the whole account here. Much of the beginning relates to the Secret Service sweep (which I am definitely familiar with, given all the Trump rallies I worked at as an intern) and the preparation by restaurant staff, all of which is fascinating in its own right. But these are my favorite parts concerning The Don himself:
8:17 PM: Without any announcement or indication, President Trump enters the hotel lobby which bears his name, flanked on all sides by the Secret Service. Shock and astonishment fill the guests in the room. The woman next to me screams “Is it him? It’s really him! Oh my God! This is like a dream!” Trump is rushed by fans in the lobby as he makes his way to the steakhouse. Secret Service makes a barrier for him, and the President waves and shakes hands on his way. The young crew are the first in line. Also waiting in line as the President arrives is Nigel Farage.
One woman shouts at him “Donald, it’s my birthday!” Trump stops and says “Happy birthday,” as he hugs the elated woman. “How about a birthday present? Let’s take a photo,” he says to her, afterward telling the woman she looks very young and has great skin.
Trump eventually sits precisely where I expected he would hours earlier. He is joined by Farage, Governor Rick Scott of Florida, and his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner. My party sits just a table away, outside the president’s security barrier. Trump’s table is surrounded by agents facing outward, creating a barrier between the president and other diners. Waiters can be seen carrying large jumbo shrimp and sparkling water to the table to start the service. We are eventually, but politely, asked to sit back down at our respective tables.
8:45 PM: Trump is served his entree. According to a waiter, who wished to remain anonymous:
“The President ordered a well-done steak. An aged New York strip. He ate it with catsup as he always does. The sides and appetizers on the table were shared. Three jumbo shrimp cocktails were delivered before the meal. At one point, the President looked at his watch and remarked ”They are filming ‘Saturday Night Live’ right now. Can’t wait to see what they are gonna do to me this week.“ It was hard to serve him because he is so funny and relaxed, it makes you laugh.”
Trump talks jovially with his guests for the next two hours. His iconic hand motions fill the space as dinner is served.
10:14 PM: Trump and his party get up to leave. The president is stopped momentarily for selfies and handshakes. Discreetly, Trump can be seen handing cash to one of the latino busboys for his table. The president handed the young man a $100 bill.
The President exits the restaurant and addresses a long line of adoring visitors waiting for him in the hotel lobby.
Trump signs some items, takes some photos and pauses just before leaving, joining in on a “USA” chant while pumping his fist.
Trump is just what you’d expect: personable, humorous, considerate, and warm. I certainly felt that vibe when I met him—when I looked into his eyes, shook his hand, made some small talk, and posed for this picture. I wrote in my journal later that day that he’s a “very genuine” man, and indeed, this dinner confirms it.
Props to Benny Johnson for getting a table reserved next to the President and writing such a wonderful piece. Again, click here to read the entire thing.