President Donald Trump made a brief fundraising swing through the Hamptons on Saturday, making appearances at two parties that campaign officials have said would generate $15 million in donations to his reelection campaign.
The president was in town for less than four hours and spent just one hour at each of the two parties, posing for photos and having quick chats with those who — other than one Montauk fisherman — shelled out tens of thousands of dollars for three minutes of his time.
The squadron of aircraft carrying the president, his staff and protection detail roared over Southampton Village just after 6 p.m. on Saturday — his campaign plans delayed by about two hours for the signing of executive orders on economic relief related to coronavirus epidemic.
Three V-22 Ospreys, a military airplane with rotating propellers that allow it to land and take-off vertically like a helicopter, landed on the high school athletic fields followed a few minutes later by the three identical Sikorsky VH-60 White Hawk helicopters.
The president’s motorcade of more than 20 escort vehicles, led by dozens of police motorcycles from the Suffolk County and Nassau County police departments, then wended its way from the high school, along the village’s oceanfront, to the First Neck Lane home of billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson, where about 60 guests who had paid up to $250,000 each to be invited to the event, awaited.
Supporters and protesters gathered at a few spots along the motorcade route to voice their opinions of the current commander-in-chief, though there were scant few opportunities to get a glimpse of Mr. Trump. Nearly all views of the president’s landing site at Southampton High School were blocked off by New York State Troopers. A split-second glimpse of Mr. Trump giving a thumbs-up from the tiny rear window of his limousine was the best those hoping to see him could get.
“We are hoping he’ll drive by or maybe get a little fly over or something,” said Cassie Arbia, who was one of the first Trump fans to camp out on Wickapogue Road hoping to see the motorcade. “I’ve never seen [the president] before other than on TV.”
“He is the best president ever,” said another one of the president’s supporters, Troy Clemens of East Quogue, adding, when asked why: “Because he is making America great again.”
There were also protesters mixed in with the Trump fans, sporting “Biden 2020” and “Black Lives Matter” signs or those voicing criticism of the president. The largest contingent gathered at the corner of First Neck Lane and Hill Street trumpeting their criticisms of the president’s tenure thus far.
“He has appointed people in every department who do not believe in the mission of that department,” said Nick Gregory. “The head of education doesn’t believe in the public school system. The head of the EPA is a coal lobbyist. The head of the postal service has a competing business and it’s only in his interest to destroy the postal service. You have to wonder if the whole goal is to just destroy everything that serves the public.”
Julie Keyes of Sag Harbor said she hopes that the president’s visit encourages local people to make their displeasure with him known.
“I feel like people are terrified of each other right now,” she said. “It’s time to come out of your home and not whisper that the Trump presidency has to end.”
National media outlets reported on Friday that the president’s visit was expected to raise $15 million for the Trump Victory Committee, the main fundraising arm of the reelection campaign, and the Republican National Committee to support other Republican candidates.
Tickets to the two parties reportedly ranged from $50,000 to more than $250,000 per person, depending on the level of access the attendee expected to get to the president during his stay.
Conversations would have to be quick. The president remained at Mr. Paulson’s home for only about one hour before the motorcade again departed and rolled east to the home of the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., on Kellis Way in Bridgehampton. There, about 40 people awaited his arrival.
Among them was Chuck Morici. Mr. Morici, a Montauk commercial fisherman, didn’t pay tens of thousands of dollars for his entree to the party in Bridgehampton: he was invited by Donald Trump Jr. himself for his display of support for the president’s re-election bid during a pro-Trump boat parade on Friday afternoon.
When the dynamic Mr. Morici’s boat, flying a dozen or more Trump and patriotic flags, slid through the flotilla of about 100 boats that gathered in Fort Pond Bay in Montauk at the conclusion of the parade, which started in Sag Harbor, it caught Mr. Trump Jr.’s eye.
“He asked whose boat that was and if I was a good guy and they told him about when we gave away all our fish when the IGA didn’t have anything,” Mr. Morici said, referring to when he and mate James Foley gave away hundreds of pounds of fish to Montauk residents early in the coronavirus epidemic. “The Secret Service called my co-captain, Jason Carey, and told him that Don Jr. said we had to be at the party.”
Mr. Carey demurred and handed off his formal invitation to his girlfriend, Mr. Morici’s daughter, Megan.
“It was wild to see him,” Mr. Morici said of the president’s visit to the party. “I got to speak to him for three minutes. I told him the commercial fishermen are behind him an we’d appreciate anything he can do for and that all of Montauk is for him — or, a lot of Montauk, anyway.”
The boat parade on Friday was the latest outlet of the fandom culture that some of Mr. Trump’s supporters have adopted. Florida resident Carlos Gavidia started the boat parade tour after his Jupiter, Florida homeowners association told him he could not fly a Trump flag outside his house. In response he had a custom “wrap” made for his 42-foot boat, emblazoning the president’s name across the entire hull.
Friday’s boat parade also, not surprisingly, attracted, a few of those not part of the Trump fandom that his supporters have grown into a distinct culture and industry.
Thomas Byrne, sporting a “Biden 2020” sign daringly paddled his kayak through the tightening knot of boats surrounding the “Official Trump Boat” and others that had rafted up with it. Several boats pulled up to him, their occupants sharing full-throated and sometimes red-faced expressions of their thoughts on his one-boat counter-parade.
“Most of them were pretty cordial actually, nobody was too bad,” Mr. Byrne said as he paddled back to shore. “I did hear some colorful words, of course. And I only got offered one beer.”