Where do you want to be when you learn the fate of Donald Trump’s presidency? Tuesday’s midterm elections will decide what the next two years of this first term will look like, and perhaps whether it’ll even be two more years at all. For Trump’s supporters and some members of his administration and his family in Washington, the best place to face this uncertainty was obvious: the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. I’ll be here observing the party until last call, a decision I already regret.
There are four screens above the main bar in the lobby, two set to Fox News and the other two to CNN. The bar is a swarm of men and women, most of whom look like they fell right out of the TVs airing Fox News and onto the blue-and-gold carpet here. A Republican lawyer, in conversation with journalists and a former Breitbart employee, said he was expecting a “red rip curl,” rather than a red wave.
Off toward the restaurant, Katrina Pierson sat in the back of a booth with two others. I heard that Steve Mnuchin is here wearing an “I Voted” sticker, but I haven’t seen him yet.
Loud booing erupted around the bar when results came onscreen for Bernie Sanders and Tim Kaine, both of whom were reelected.
I found a rare empty chair near the elevators where there are no people and decided to take a moment to collect my thoughts in peace.
Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle walked by me with their security detail. Quietly, they escaped through the doors leading to the driveway.
Darrell Issa just walked in.
I went outside to have a cigarette and Eric and Lara Trump walked out. He walked over to get into his SUV. He waved over towards me and another reporter. “Hey guys!” And then got into the vehicle.
Marc Lotter, former press secretary for Mike Pence, approaches me and three other reporters. A woman standing nearby asked him if he knew who was winning. He told her he wouldn’t expect to know until ten or 11. He engaged in small talk for a while, almost never looking up from a live feed of the results on his phone
At the bar, a man remarked to his friend “Bernie Sanders is so Larry Sanders. He’s so New York.”
There is now a line outside the hotel, which management says is at capacity.
At the bar earlier, another reporter and I waited for an overwhelmed waiter to bring us coffee. While we waited, we talked with a woman who said her name is Kelly Boone and she’s from Colorado. Kelly left the bar before the coffee arrived but, ten minutes later, she walked over to our chairs holding a tray with two coffees for us. Over coffee, she showed me a bruise under her eye and claimed that, while wearing a Make America Great Again hat at a Walmart recently, a man walked up to her, removed her hat and struck her in the face.
Suzzanne Monk, a Trump supporter and aspiring pundit who I’ve seen at this hotel before, walked over to my table. “It’s America’s living room, where else would you want to be?” she said.
I asked a person close to the president how the president is feeling about the results so far. “Awesome,” they said, “We likely win both races in Florida. Plus, Tennessee, Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri, Texas, and Nevada.”
Asked if Trump was worried about tonight’s results before they began rolling in, this person said, “Nope. Not one bit.”
“He’s not a worrier.”
A man wearing a Trump button the size of a grapefruit on his lapel approached me to say he recognized me, though he couldn’t remember why. He asked if I was a reporter, and then he recalled he recognized me because of my recent interview with Trump. He asked me what it was like to interview him. He said his name was Johnny Rice and he’s running for Congress in Maryland. Without prompting, he offered that he loves Trump although “he’s not perfect,” before criticizing how Trump has handled accusations that he sympathizes with white nationalists. What Trump should say, Rice told me, is: “This isn’t about nationalism, it’s about Americanism.” Rice added that he messaged David Duke on Facebook to tell him he isn’t a Christian and he shouldn’t support Trump. Then, Rice said that he didn’t understand why Trump didn’t denounce racists more strongly. He said he thought he might be scared to do so.
Fox News called the House for Democrats. “FUCK!” a man passing by said. He then covered his mouth and said “oops.”
I am in the restaurant upstairs having a glass of wine. Seen from here, the patches in the crowd are more visible, making it more confusing that security has stopped anyone from entering because of fire safety concerns. Two women wearing ball gowns that say “Make America Great Again” in large type on the front, designed by Andre Soriano, walk into the lobby.
The person close to the president tells me he is “happy” because “everywhere he campaigned is kicking ass.”
They don’t cook their French fries enough here. They’re kind of mushy. As I contemplated this, the entire room erupted in cheers. I turned to the TVs mounted across the room. Missouri was called for Josh Hawley, the Republican, over Claire McCaskill. Three women stood up to clap.
Sebastian Gorka was holding a copy of his new book, which features a deeply unflattering picture of him on the cover. I asked him why he chose the photo and why he wasn’t looking at the camera. He told me he wasn’t interested in answering stupid questions. I asked what he thought of tonight’s results and he said, “I’m really not interested in talking to you, okay?”