PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attended a music-filled Christmas Eve service at a Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated church before celebrating the holiday with dinner in the ballroom of his private club.
The pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Florida, Jimmy Scroggins, and his family greeted the Trumps as they arrived moments into a “Candlelight Christmas Celebration.” The Trumps received applause and cheers while taking reserved seats in the church’s third pew. Brief sermons and readings by clergy were interlaced between traditional Christmas songs, as theatrical smoke billowed and fake snow descended from the rafters.
Attending Family Church was a change of pace for the Trumps, who had attended holiday services in the past at Bethesda-by-the-Sea, the Episcopal Church in Palm Beach at which they were married in 2005.
The Trumps then returned to his private club, where they were greeted by applause as they entered for Christmas Eve dinner. Trump, less than a week after being impeached by the House, did not respond when asked by a reporter if he prayed for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at church, but he said, “We’re going to have a great year.”
Trump was seen briefly speaking attorney Alan Dershowitz, a prominent Trump defender on cable news, who was dining in the ballroom. The Harvard Law School professor emeritus has been the subject of discussions about joining the president’s impeachment legal team.
Trump earlier called military service members stationed across the world to share greetings ahead of the Christmas holiday.
Speaking Tuesday by video conference from his private club in Florida, where is he is on a more than two-week vacation, Trump said, “I want to wish you an amazing Christmas.” The group included Marines in Afghanistan, an Army unit in Kuwait, a Navy ship in the Gulf of Aden, an Air Force base in Missouri and a Coast Guard station in Alaska.
Trump praised the armed forces for their efforts this year to eliminate the last of the Islamic State group’s territorial caliphate and for killing IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He also touted economic successes at home and a pay raise for troops kicking in in the new year.
“You make it possible for us to do what we have to do,” Trump said, thanking them for their service.
Trump briefly fielded questions from troops, including an invitation to attend the homecoming of the USS Forrest Sherman when the destroyer returns next year to its home port of Norfolk, Virginia.
Trump was asked what he’d bought Mrs. Trump for Christmas. A “beautiful card,” he said, and admitted that he was “still working on a Christmas present.”
“You made me think. I’m going to have to start working on that real fast,” he said.
On Tuesday evening, the first lady answered calls from children across the country as part of North American Aerospace Defense Command’s Operation NORAD Tracks Santa program. Press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Mrs. Trump spoke with several children and heard items on their Christmas lists.
Grisham said Mrs. Trump ”reminded the kids to put milk and cookies out for Santa, and wished each child and their families a very merry Christmas.”
The president has been largely out of the spotlight since delivering a speech to conservative students in nearby West Palm Beach on Saturday, spending his days golfing on his private course and greeting the well-heeled members of his clubs.