- The Washington Times
Friday, January 20, 2017

President Trump kicked off his presidency by upgrading from the fast-food and taco bowls of his campaign to a formal Capitol luncheon of Maine lobster and beef with juniper jus among the most powerful people in Washington — including his vanquished foe, Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Trump greeted the former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic president nominee, who won the popular vote but fell short in the Electoral College, with a handshake at the start of the meal.

The newly sworn president asked the crowd to applaud Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, for showing up on his big day.

“I’d like you stand up. I’d like you to stand up,” Mr. Trump said.

The event, a tradition for more than a century, was attended by family members of Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Supreme Court justices, lawmakers and Cabinet nominees — roughly 200 guests in all — at National Statuary Hall, an ornate room that hosted the House of Representatives in the early 19th century.

Then-Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who later died of a brain cancer, suddenly collapsed during the inaugural luncheon for President Obama in 2008, though the event is typically a jovial meet-and-greet designed to let all sides defuse after a tumultuous campaign season.

Mr. Clinton could be seen hobnobbing with Senate Republicans and former New York City Rudy Giuliani — a noted critic of the Clintons — while Ben Carson, the former presidential candidate tapped by Mr. Trump to lead the Housing and Urban Development Department, posed for pictures with a priest.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan led a toast to Mr. Pence, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raised a glass to Mr. Trump.

“Big, bold, energetic, enterprising, resilient — always looking to the next horizon. It sure sounds like our country, and it sure sounds like Donald Trump,” Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said.

Prior to the luncheon, Mr. Trump needled congressional Democrats as he formally signed papers nominating his Cabinet, saying they would all do a “good job” and telling Senate Minority Charles E. Schumer to move fast on Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican nominated to be CIA director.

“They tell me he’s going to be approved momentarily,” Mr. Trump said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made sure that Senate Majority Mitch McConnell received the pen used to designate Elaine Chao — the leader’s wife — as his nominee for transportation secretary.

Inside the hall, guests dined on Maine lobster and Gulf shrimp with saffron sauce and a peanut crumble for their first course, followed by grilled angus beef with dark chocolate and juniper jus and potato gratin.

For dessert, they had a chocolate soufflé with cherry vanilla ice cream.

The meal was served with California wines to reflect the home state of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The Joint Congressional Committee presented Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence with etched crystal bowls created by Lenox for the 2017 inaugural luncheon.

Mr. Trump’s features the White House on one side and the Jefferson Memorial on the other, while Mr. Pence’s features the Capitol and Lincoln Memorial. Each of them features a compass rose etched into the base.

Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican who organized the inauguration, said the glass came from Slovenia, the birth country of first lady Melania Trump.

The Smithsonian Chamber Players performed a mix of American and European pieces from the balcony overlooking the hall.

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.