Trump supporters gather ahead of tony fundraiser in Newport Beach

Several hundred supporters of former President Trump gathered in Newport Beach early Saturday morning, cheering for the presumptive GOP presidential nominee and hoping to catch a glimpse of his motorcade en route to an exclusive fundraiser on gated Harbor Island.

As people waved flags that read “Trump 2024” and a banner that read “Never Surrender!” and “We stand united with Trump!,” Andrea Flores, 49, of Rancho Santa Margarita, stood on a corner wearing a red Trump baseball cap and chatting with a fellow supporter, pausing her conversation periodically to cheer as people driving by honked their horns. A song with the lyrics “Trump, President Trump he’s the only one who can get the job done” played on a speaker.

“I wish people would let go of the hate they have for him and do what’s best for the country,” Flores said. “There’s only two candidates right now — one that can’t walk and talk and one that they hate — you have to pick your poison.”

Flores, a Republican, said the economy and the border are among her top issues this election. As for Trump’s recent conviction, several supporters in the crowd, including Flores, said the charges were “politically motivated.”

The Saturday event was the last stop on a three-day fundraising trip in California — his first forays with donors after a New York jury convicted him of 34 counts of falsifying business records about $130,000 in payments to adult film actor Stormy Daniels, who alleges they had sex in Lake Tahoe during a golf tournament, in an effort to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Read more: In Silicon Valley, more support for Trump is trickling in. Is it a big threat to Biden?

Trump has lagged behind President Biden in fundraising — both nationally and in California — but has received an infusion of cash since the verdicts were announced on May 30. Notably, he reported raising $53 million in the first 24 hours after the trial ended and $18 million at fundraisers in San Francisco and Beverly Hills during this swing.

On Saturday, donors spent up to $100,000 to attend the Newport Beach roundtable and luncheon at a Harbor Island manse overlooking Newport Bay — the least expensive top tickets of the trip. A line of sharply dressed people, some sporting red, white and blue, waited for vans to shuttle them from the Hyatt Regency to the fundraiser Saturday morning.

Donald Holly Sr., 82, woke up Saturday morning with butterflies in his stomach. It would be his first time seeing Trump, and the Fullerton resident was ecstatic. He brought a bottle of seltzer water to calm his stomach as he approached the hotel. His son Richard Holly, 56, followed closely behind, brushing at his dad’s suit with a lint roller to clean off any wisp of cat hair.

“I just totally admire and look up to Donald J. Trump, very successful businessman,” Donald Holly Sr. said. “He just knows how to run a business and certainly knows how to run a country. All you have to do is look at what we had and as far as inflation goes, no world wars — everything was going on fine from ’16 to ’20.”

Trump also would not have bungled the exit from Afghanistan, he said, referring to the chaotic removal of American troops in 2021 on President Biden’s watch.

The Hollys own Brea Electric, which Yorba Linda resident Richard Holly is now handing off to his children, the fourth generation of Hollys to run the small Orange County business. Part of his reason for supporting Trump, Richard Holly said, was the former president’s support for small businesses and family values.

“We’re here because we like the traditional conservative family values that we grew up with,” Richard Holly said. “California is different than it was when I was a kid.”

Trump supporters in Newport Beach on Saturday.Trump supporters in Newport Beach on Saturday.

Trump supporters in Newport Beach on Saturday. The former president is attending a fundraiser. (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

The Newport Beach fundraiser is taking place on Harbor Island, one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in this coastal enclave, filled with waterfront mansions and residents who have high expectations of privacy.

The event is scheduled to take place at the home of health insurance company co-founder John Word and his wife, Kimberly, whose home appeared to be decorated with red, white and blue bunting across the seawall and along doors and windows on the property. Billionaire tech entrepreneur Palmer Luckey, who lives on nearby Lido Isle, was a co-host of the event.

On Friday evening, Trump headlined a fundraiser at the Beverly Hills Italianate mansion of Lee Samson, a longtime philanthropist who is on the board of directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition. He has hosted many fundraisers for GOP politicians over the years, including one for Trump in 2019 that raised $5 million and another in 2020 with the then-president’s daughter Ivanka supporting his reelection that raised $2 million.

Donald Trump waves to fans as he leaves a home that held a fund raiser for hisDonald Trump waves to fans as he leaves a home that held a fund raiser for his

Donald Trump waves to fans as he leaves a home that held a fundraiser for his campaign in Beverly Hills on Friday, and fans and demonstrators stand outside. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

Nearby, a Burbank artist arranged a birthday greeting for the former president, who turns 78 on Friday. A few dozen supporters waved flags outside the event, including one featuring a QAnon conspiracy theory that referenced a canard that John F. Kennedy Jr. is still alive, while some neighbors watched the spectacle from a distance.

Tickets to Friday’s event cost up to $250,000 per person, and the event raised $6 million for his 2024 campaign, Trump told the crowd, according to attendee Gregg Donovan, 64, of Santa Monica.

Donovan, dressed in his red-tailcoat and black top-hat uniform from his former role as the goodwill ambassador of Beverly Hills, said he was moved to buy a $5,000 ticket because seeing Trump’s reelection bid in person “was history in the making.”

The longtime Trump supporter said he was alarmed by Trump’s conviction, because “if it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.”

He said he expects Trump to win in November, in part because among his friends, Trump has more support than he did in 2020 — especially among immigrants who are angry about the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

After Trump was introduced by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum — reportedly among the elected officials being vetted as a potential running mate — and Samson, the former president spoke for about 45 minutes and promised on Day 1 in the Oval Office to secure the border and to “drill, baby, drill,” Donovan said.

Samson is the founder of Windsor Healthcare Management, one of the largest skilled nursing and rehabilitation providers in California and Arizona. One of the group’s facilities was accused in 2020 of pressuring patients to relocate so it could accept more lucrative patients during the pandemic, according to the New York Times.

A spokesperson for the Windsor Park Care Center in Fremont, where the incident allegedly occurred, declined comment to the newspaper, but Samson told it, “Whatever my political affiliation, Windsor’s commitment to protecting its residents will never be compromised.”

The President Biden-Vice President Kamala Harris reelection campaign seized upon the allegations.

“If you want to know who Donald Trump fights for, just look at who he spends his time with: grifters, criminals — and … in this case, a billionaire who evicted seniors from his nursing homes during a deadly pandemic to line his own pockets,” said Sarafina Chitika, a spokesperson for the campaign. “Trump is making it clear to America’s seniors that if he wins this November, he’ll happily sell them out to his billionaire donors — gutting Social Security and Medicare while passing tax giveaways for his wealthy, extreme allies.”

Read more: Liberals don’t like Biden’s border plan, but it may help him where he needs it most

The evening fundraiser ended relatively early because many guests were Jewish and needed to head home for Shabbat, Trump said, according to Donovan. Attendees in cocktail dresses and suits spilled out onto the quiet Beverly Hills street shortly before sunset.

As Trump’s motorcade left shortly before 8 p.m., Robin Dominguez, 67, thrust a sign into the air that read, “TRUMP GUILTY” and, on the other side, “LOCK HIM UP.” She wore a red shirt that read in white type: “Make Racists Afraid Again.”

One woman in a red MAGA hat screamed, “shame on you,” at Dominguez, then told her if she didn’t like the U.S., she should move to Venezuela. The window of a red SUV rolled down as it passed by, and a preteen passenger yelled: “Hey lady! Put that sign down. The case was illegitimate.”

A Donald Trump supporter stands outside a home in Beverly Hills, California where theA Donald Trump supporter stands outside a home in Beverly Hills, California where the

A Donald Trump supporter stands outside a home in Beverly Hills. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

Dominguez said many people told her Friday that Trump’s trial was a sham. But, she said, “How can it be a conspiracy when 12 people all found him guilty?”

On Thursday in San Francisco, Trump told donors at venture capitalist David Sacks’ Pacific Heights’ estate that he raised $12 million. Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, another elected official reportedly on Trump’s potential list of running mates, was among his introducers at the event that cost individuals up to $300,000 for tickets and up to $500,000 for couples.

“He said if there were no cheating, I would win this election today,” said Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney whose firm represents the Trump campaign and attended the fundraiser. “But there is cheating so we have to be vigilant. He talked about how this time around, we would do things different, that we’ve got a lot of smart lawyers and volunteers lined up and things like that.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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