Ruffles and flourishes at the stroke of 11, and the Trumps come on stage to Hail to the Chief, and chants of USA!
"What a day it's been," the president said.
The military, he said, are “amazing.”
“I like the fact that you all voted for me,” he said, setting off cheers.
(Apologies if any of the quotes are slightly off. The acoustics in the upper balcony were not good.)
“I just met your Joint Chiefs of Staff, and they are incredible. They know what to do... We’re going to see what happens but we have a great country and we want to do what’s appropriate… Lots of bad things are happening but I think you’re going to see improvement.”
Big cheers when he mentioned Defense Secretary Mattis’ confirmation earlier today.
He did a satellite talkback with U.S. troops in Afghanistan. They were shown on big screens.
“There’s about a six second delay,” he said, vamping a bit.
“How’s it going?” he said, urging the solders to start talking. “Don’t be like these people. Don’t be too tough on me,” Trump said, pointing to journalists just below him in the buffer.
“It’s a 10 second delay but I like them much better than I like these people,” he said, again gesturing to the press corps.
He pumped his right fist to rile the crowd as he awaited another comment from the field.
“The courage that you show is incredible. And it’s going to be appreciated. It’s appreciated now but it’s going to be appreciated more than ever before. You’ll see,” Trump said.
A gunnery sergeant: “On behalf of all the Marines here in Afghanistan we want to say congratulations.” More cheers from the crowd.
Trump said he looks forward to “seeing you soon.”
“You’re amazing people. We’re with you a thousand a thousand a thousand percent. Keep fighting. We’re going to win,” he said.
That segment of the event over, he talked about the previous balls, citing crowd counts of 10,000 and 12,000, and mentioning – to the surprise of the pool – that he was supposed to go to two more balls this evening.
“You are great, great people. I have your back,” Trump said. Melania was standing a bit behind and to his left this whole time.
“It all began with a theme, and the theme was Make America Great Again,” he said.
“We had tremendous victories,” he said, relishing the campaign memories again. “We’re going to make America greater than ever before.”
He reached out his left hand and took his wife’s hand. She stepped to the microphone.
“I’m honored to be your first lady. We will fight, we will win, and we will make America great again,” she said.
Then they stepped onto the enormous presidential seal, a stage in the round in the middle of the high ceilinged National Building Museum. They swayed to a slow, romantic version of “I Will Always Love You.” The Pences soon joined.
And then a pair of uniformed couples – see previous emails for IDs. The Trumps and Pences each began dancing with a serviceman or woman. The Trump kids were dancing, too, by this point -- 11 couples in all on the seal. A Marine twirled Mrs. Pence and the crowd cheered. The president and his partner exchanged two cheek kisses and Trump shook hands with the sergeant who’d been dancing with Melania, at which point the Trumps were dancing together again briefly as the song came to close, and they led the crowd in clapping. Trump waved, and with his left hand holding his wife’s, he snapped a salute.
Next came the cake cutting. Chants of “Trump! Trump!” The president and vice president made a slice with a sword, assisted by a military aide.
Pool was escorted off the balcony at 11:20 and into the vans, after wending through a crush of military personnel who looked happy but, in some cases, ready to beat the rush and leave.
No word as yet from the White House on the first lady's gown but for those who haven't figured out by now, enter "Melania Trump and Hervé Pierre" in your favorite search engine.
Todd J. Gillman
Washington Bureau Chief
The Dallas Morning News
529 14th Street NW, suite 930
Washington, DC 20045