At fundraisers while skipping GOP debate, Trump lays out some plans for potential 2nd term

The former president has repeatedly declined to get on stage with his rivals.

December 7, 2023, 8:04 PM

While most of the major 2024 presidential candidates were competing against each other on the debate stage in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Wednesday night, former President Donald Trump spent the day attending fundraisers for his campaign and a super PAC supporting his reelection bid.

Trump has continued to opt out of the debates, despite sharp criticism from his rivals, as he argues he sees no point in joining them on stage and facing questions -- and their attacks -- given his large polling lead.

Instead, he has held big rallies for the last two debates and on Wednesday went golfing and dining with a smaller group of close friends and wealthy supporters at Shell Bay Club -- a private golf club in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

Two separate fundraisers took place at Shell Bay Club on Wednesday, one for his campaign and his Save America political action committee, and another for pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great Again Inc.

Both fundraisers were hosted by Trump friends Howard Lorber, Kristin Bell and Steve Witkoff, the latter of whom recently testified as an expert defense witness in the New York civil trial in which Trump is accused of inflating the value of his properties. (He denies wrongdoing.)

Also at the super PAC fundraiser was Trump's former Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell.

The fundraisers come as major Republican donors that were reluctant to support Trump earlier this cycle or were sitting on the sidelines gradually come back to him as he continues to maintain his popularity with the Republican base, despite his many controversies and legal troubles. He has pleaded not guilty in four criminal cases.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally at Ted Hendricks Stadium in Hialeah, Florida, on Nov. 8, 2023.
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally at Ted Hendricks Stadium in Hialeah, Florida, on Nov. 8, 2023.
Octavio Jones/Reuters, FILE

Anti-Trump donors have also been divided among the various other candidates in the primary, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Bill White, a friend of Trump who attended a dinner organized by the super PAC as part of its fundraiser on Wednesday night, described the occasion as a "special" night surrounded by a diverse group of friends and supporters.

"I've been to a 100 of these things in in my life with Donald Trump, and it was one of the most meaningful ones I've ever attended," White said of the fundraiser, while calling the debate a “complete waste of time.”

White said Trump's remarks at the fundraiser laid out some of his plans for a possible second term -- repeating some of his stump speech from the campaign trail about closing the borders, ending involvement in foreign conflicts and "jump starting" the economy.

Trump also again questioned Biden’s mental and physical health, which Biden has defended, and attacked Biden's economic and foreign policies, among others, White said.

He boasted about Trump's speech, labeling it "electric" and "forward looking," and maintained that he was "just so inspired" that he donated more money that night.

However, Trump also recently stirred controversy, including criticism from primary rival Chris Christie, for telling Sean Hannity this week that he'd only be a "dictator" if reelected as president on "Day 1," when he'd focus on the border and drilling.

White, who helps raise money for both the Trump campaign and the super PAC, said he could not disclose how much the super PAC raised on Wednesday night but called it "another record number."

The other fundraiser, for the campaign and Save America PAC, also at Shell Bay Club, was ticketed at $23,000, including a reception and a photo opportunity with the former president, according to an invitation for the event.