This evening during a second Hanukkah reception at the White House, president Trump gave tribute to the late George H.W. Bush.
President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Vice President Pence and Mrs. Pence entered the East Room at 4:30 p.m., with POTUS heading straight for his podium. He began, as previously noted, with a tribute to the late George H.W. Bush. POTUS wore his signature dark suit, white shirt and a red tie that appeared to have a pink stripe (check on video as pool was on far side of room). FLOTUS wore an off-the-shoulder black dress.
“We will always remember this great statesman,” POTUS 45 said of POTUS 41. “He really was very special.”
Spotted chatting with guests was Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. President Trump recognized her, as well as several lawmakers in attendance: Sen. Roy Blunt; Reps. Ted Deutch, Josh Gottheimer, David Kustoff and Lee Zeldin; and Colorado Gov.-Elect Jared Polis. He also noted Jared Kushner, presidential son-in-law and White House adviser, was in the room “I’m sure none of you have ever heard that name,” Trump joked.
Trump then recalled the story of Judah Maccabee and the lamp he lit that “burned for eight nights” rather than the one he expected under duress. POTUS said the Jewish people have “endured, overcome and thrived” despite a long history of “hardships” and “terrible violence.”
“Thrived like few, that I can tell you,” POTUS said. “Thrived.”
He recalled the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October, which he called a “sinister anti-Semitic attack.” Trump recalled his visit, saying he “met incredible people” who “stood up so bravely, so proudly.”
“In the aftermath of that wicked assault, we reaffirmed our solemn duty to confront anti-Semitism everywhere it occurs,” he said. “We must stamp out this vile hatred from the world.”
POTUS then introduced eight Holocaust survivors. He called the Holocaust “history’s darkest hour.” After he called them up, POTUS told the survivors they inspire the world with their courage. (Pooler has asked White House for list of names of those called to the stage. If that information is provided, will on-pass.)
As they stood behind him, Trump noted they had seen “evil beyond description” and quoted author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel: “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” Trump followed that quote with this pledge of his own: “Today and everyday we renew our solemn pledge: Never again.”
POTUS applauded the Jewish people for building Israel into a “mighty and majestic nation.” He then pledged his administration would always stand beside Israel. That, and what was perceived as tepid applause, led one of the gentleman called onstage by Trump to shout from over his left shoulder, “Let’s hear it everybody. Go! C’mon!” as he encouraged them to cheer louder. The crowd obliged as POTUS smiled.
On Iran: “We have left the horrible Iran nuclear deal and imposed — it was a horrible, horrible deal. It should have never been made. … And imposed the toughest ever sanctions. We sanctioned Iran, I guess, like no one has ever been sanctioned before. We must never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear bomb. We cannot let the world’s leading sponsor of terror, a country that chants ‘death to America’ and threatens Israel all of the time with annihilation and constantly screams out ‘death to Israel’ to possess the deadliest weapon on Earth. We will not allow that to happen.”
On Jerusalem & ‘Four more years!’: As POTUS began speaking about recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, the same gentleman again urged the crowd to make more noise. Again, they obliged. POTUS thanked them. That’s when the “four more years!” chant started. Someone in the crowd noted, once the math is completed from this date, it would be “six more years.” Trump expressed his agreement with the 2 + 4 equation. “I’ve actually never heard ‘four more years,’” POTUS claimed with a grin. “That’s an interesting one. … We’ll go for six, and then we’ll all be in very good shape.” The president claimed he was told renovating what now is the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem could cost as little as $200,000, which he said was “too cheap.” So he told his officials to do it for $400,000.
POTUS had Vice President Pence say a few words. VPOTUS declared it the “greatest honor of my life to serve as vice president to the most pro-Israel president in American history.” VPOTUS then wished everyone a happy Hanukkah.
President Trump had promised to “shake a few hands,” and the Trumps and Pences did just that starting at 4:46 p.m. They worked their way along the front row for about six minutes. The pool was positioned on the far side of the rectangular East Room, behind the standing guests and did not have a clear view of POTUS as he worked from your pooler’s left to right greeting guests. Based on the disappearance of the Secret Service presence, he appeared to exit the room at 4:52 p.m.