Donald Trump in Southwest Florida for fundraiser inspired by Melania's White House holiday decor
Former First Lady Melania Trump famously questioned a top aide in a recorded conversation on whether she had to come up with a holiday look for the White House.
"I have to do it, right?" Trump said, using an F word in describing her enthusiasm. "Who gives a (expletive) about Christmas stuff and decoration?"
It appears husband Donald Trump does, especially when it comes to this week's visit to Southwest Florida. Her widely panned blood-red trees, compared to car wash drive-throughs, scenes from The Shining and other terrifying experiences, are an inspiration for a private Friday fundraiser the former president is hosting in Naples.
Plus:Judge's ruling that Donald Trump must pay $2 million to charities ends troubled foundation's saga of mishandling funds and using group for personal means
With a re-creation of Melania Trump's Yuletide handy work as a backdrop, attendees and three family members are paying up to $30,000 to pose for one photo only with the happy couple and access to a 7 p.m. party.
Singles pay $10,000, and if one brings a significant other, the cost is $20,000. Perfect for Christmas cards.
The Naples Winter Christmas, as tabbed by fundraising operative Brad Keltner and his WHIP organization, "will give you a lifetime of festive memories," Keltner said, saying to expect 100 Christmas trees and snow at a Naples airport hangar, with 90 tickets slated to be sold.
It's not known where all the raised money will be funneled. The group didn't respond to further questions, but Keltner told the New York Daily News, just over a half-mile walk from WHIP's headquarters, that most of the dollars will go to unnamed charities.
“Trump does get a piece of the pie, but the lion’s share will go to charity,” Keltner said.
Who's on the guest list?
We've contacted Gov. Ron DeSantis, among other Republicans and Trump family members and their handlers, but none were in a hurry to confirm they're coming.
Government overthrow:Capitol Police officers sue Trump, alleging conspiracy, terrorism on Jan. 6
And:Jan. 6 committee subpoenas organizers of rallies preceding attack on US Capitol including Trump team member planning Naples Christmas gathering
Former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, while getting the word out on her book due out Dec. 7, was promoting the event this week on social media, playing up the "stunning decorations inspired by First Lady Melania Trump’s White House."
The always quickly responsive and local party honcho Frank Schwerin found out about the Trump appearance Tuesday night from this columnist.
"I was unaware of the event," said Schwerin, chairman of what is known as CCREC. "I can confirm that it is not being held in cooperation with the Collier County Republican Executive Committee."
Naples Airport Authority Executive Director Chris Rozansky isn't prepping his tuxedo either.
"I am aware of a private event involving NPD, CCSO and Secret Service, but I know very little about the details and am not attending," Rozansky said Wednesday, noting the involvement of the Naples Police Department and the Collier County sheriff's office.
We threw Rozansky for a loop when we told him we were on the lookout for the arrival of dozens of Christmas trees ahead of the Friday gala.
"Christmas trees?" he asked, before we briefed him on the Trump plans. ''Ah, OK. Shows how much I know."
Local law enforcement may be assisting, but the feds have the steering wheel.
"In order to maintain the operational security critical to the agency’s mission, the Secret Service does not discuss the means and methods used to conduct protective operations," said the agency's Steven Kopek, getting back with us in an impressive two hours Wednesday. "Questions regarding the schedule of a protectee may directed to a protectee’s staff through their offices."
The Trump team's Justin Caporale is listed with local government officials as the contact for the gathering, but we had not heard back from him.
Caporale has overseen the budgeting, management and production of more than 1,000 Trump events across the country, according to the website of his company, where he is the director of operations and senior vice president.
He also shows up in public records as the "Project Manager" for the rally preceding the attack on the U.S. Capitol earlier this year. In connection with his role, the bipartisan Jan. 6 Select Committee has subpoenaed him, among the first dozen or so it issued.
Based at the Naples Daily News, Columnist Phil Fernandez (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes In the Know as part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Support Democracy and subscribe to a newspaper.