For the first time in nearly three months — after a bruising loss in a government shutdown standoff with Democrats and with his staff continuing to leak information to the press — President Donald Trump was finally able to retreat last weekend to his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, where he was insulated through sheer branding from most criticism of his polarizing tenure in the White House.
“No matter what else is happening in the world, he is treated like royalty at Mar-a-Lago,” a club source tells PEOPLE. “He loves to be here.”
And for much of his first two years in office, Trump has loved to be there frequently: He’s been to his Florida properties around Mar-a-Lago or to other Trump clubs, in New Jersey and Virginia, more than 200 times since his inauguration in January 2017, according to analysis of his travel.
But when the federal government partially shut down on Dec. 22 over Trump’s insistence for funding for a border wall with Mexico, he remained in Washington, D.C. — through Christmas, New Year’s and most of January, except for a brief trip to visit troops in Iraq.
His trip last weekend was the first time he had been in Mar-a-Lago since Thanksgiving, according to the New York Times. And his fans there were thrilled to see him back.
“You would have to be insensitive not to be touched by how he has stayed there working,” Toni Holt Kramer, founder of Trumpettes USA, told the paper. “I think people will have tears in their eyes because they’re so grateful that he’s come back to his home away from home.”
Trump returned to his club under a cloud of negative press and sagging poll numbers driven by his role in closing the government.
The same day the shutdown began, the Times published an expansive look at what the paper called the president’s increasing isolation and lack of temperament. According to one anecdote in the article, he calls his advisers “f—ing idiots.”
On Sunday, in a disconcerting sign of his staff’s true loyalties, the political website Axios published 51 days of the president’s daily schedules that had been leaked to them by someone in the White House.
The schedules, in total, showed Trump spent huge chunks of the last three months in loosely defined “executive time” rather than in meetings, briefings and other official functions.
There were still more damaging leaks: a former communications aide, Cliff Sims, published a book last week detailing what he said was “out of control” behavior by some in the administration, according to the Times. “The once clear lines — between right and wrong, good and evil, light and darkness — were eroded until only a faint wrinkle remained,” Sims wrote of his time with Trump.
But all of that was far away from the Palm Beach area, where the president attends exclusively Trump-adjacent events at Trump properties that ensure he is largely surrounded by supporters.
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It was a family affair for the trip south: Trump was joined by First Lady Melania Trump and their son Barron, 12. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, both top West Wing aides, traveled with them along with their three young children.
Arriving early Friday night, the family was back in D.C. by Sunday evening.
“He was talking to club members and shaking hands and seeming to have a nice quiet time Friday night,” a source tells PEOPLE. He and Melania, who keeps her own suite at the club, reportedly ate together that night — unusual, as they often dine separately.
The president spent much of his weekend removed from view of the accompanying pool of White House reporters and he resumed a standard Mar-a-Lago schedule, which had been upended by the shutdown.
That meant, mostly, that he golfed during the day (with Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus and, the following day, with his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney) and returned home to keep to himself despite his wife and children being nearby.
“[Trump] rarely leaves Mar-a-Lago at night,” the source says. “He spends his time on the phone, working, tweeting and watching TV. Melania spends a lot of her time with Barron and her own family.”
There were changes made to accommodate the Super Bowl weekend as well: The president and first lady watched the Florida Atlantic University marching band outside of Trump International Golf Club before Trump then presided over his usual Super Bowl dinner party in the club house.
At halftime, the family boarded Air Force One and headed back to D.C. where Trump was slated on Tuesday to give a State of the Union address the White House had said would be focused on unity and bipartisanship. Last month, the president conceded to Democrats over the shutdown and agreed to temporarily reopen the government as lawmakers hashed out funding for various border security measures.
On Tuesday morning, hours before the speech and with shutdown negotiations ongoing, Trump tweeted a message far away from compromise:
“I see [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer is already criticizing my State of the Union speech, even though he hasn’t seen it yet. He’s just upset that he didn’t win the Senate, after spending a fortune, like he thought he would. Too bad we weren’t given more credit for the Senate win by the media!”