Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, leveraged buy-out billionaire Henry Kravis and Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman were among the guests Tuesday at the first state dinner of Donald Trump’s presidency, a formal fete for French President Emmanuel Macron.
Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Fluence Corp chairman Ron Lauder, FedEx Corp. CEO Fred Smith and Bernard Arnault, France’s richest man and chairman of luxury-goods maker LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, also were among the corporate titans attending the White House celebration.
The dinner culminated two days of meetings and symbolic gestures for the two leaders and their wives, who on Monday visited George Washington’s Virginia home, Mount Vernon. For guests, it’s a sign of their close ties to the Trump administration or to the French government, and an opportunity to mingle with leaders from politics, business and the arts.
Toasts to Friendship
At the dinner, Trump toasted “nearly two and a half centuries of friendship” between the U.S. and France.
Macron, who has sought to persuade Trump to remain in the Iran nuclear deal, celebrated the two nations’ shared values and the strength of their personal relationship.
“On both sides of the ocean some two years ago very few would have bet on us being here together today,” Macron said. “But as a matter of fact, we share the same determination and the willingness to serve both our countries -- your country, my country -- and the rest of the world.”
The White House said the Trumps chose to keep the dinner small, contained to the rooms of the residence’s state floor and not overflowing into a tent on the South Lawn, as President Barack Obama’s state dinners did, with as many as 400 guests. A shorter guest list could also be a sign of Trump’s relative unpopularity with elites, especially in Hollywood.
No Democratic members of Congress were on the guest list, in contrast with past presidents’ practice of inviting members of the opposing party. John Bel Edwards, the Democratic governor of Louisiana, a state with historic and cultural ties to France, was at the event.
Trump and his wife Melania greeted Macron and his wife Brigitte at the White House’s North Portico. The two leaders shared a handshake and double-cheeked kiss and their wives did the same.
France’s first lady wore a Louis Vuitton cream-colored full-length gown with gold detail, which a French official said had been made by Nicolas Ghesquiere, the fashion house’s creative director. Melania Trump wore a black Chantilly lace Chanel Haute Couture gown, hand painted with silver and embroidered with crystal and sequins, according to her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham.
Jerry Hall, Lisa Jackson, Kissinger
Murdoch arrived with his wife, Jerry Hall, the actress and former model, who was wearing a bright blue gown. She said she was looking forward to “seeing the French president.” Cook came with Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment and government affairs and Obama’s former head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger walked past reporters using a cane and was followed by a man with a wheelchair.
Two U.S. Olympic athletes, curling’s John Shuster and hockey’s Meghan Duggan, showed off gold medals as they walked past reporters.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde were also among the guests, along with many Trump administration figures including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State nominee and current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, economic adviser Larry Kudlow, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Louise Linton, the Treasury secretary’s wife, said she was looking forward to “everything French” when she passed reporters.
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, both also advisers to the president, also were at
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been publicly criticized by the president did not attend the dinner. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who have both come under fire over ethics allegations, were not there as well. Neither was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who had a public spat with Kudlow after she prematurely announced that new Russia sanctions were imminent, when the administration had decided not to impose them.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce and Louisiana senators John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy were also among the guests.
Macron has been one of the few European leaders to develop a strong relationship with Trump, one that has manifested itself during this visit through extended handshakes and rounds of praise from the American president. Trump was impressed by the show France put on for him during a visit last summer and was eager to deliver a similarly grand experience this week for Macron.
The menu for the three-course dinner offers American cuisine with a French twist, including goat cheese gateau, rack of spring lamb, Carolina Gold rice jambalaya, nectarine tart and creme fraiche ice cream.
As a presidential candidate, Trump boasted that he’d “have the best ballroom” for such an occasion. But after he had has secured the Republican nomination, he suggested eliminating formal state dinners altogether.
“We shouldn’t have dinners at all,” he said at rally in Atlanta in June 2016. “We should be eating a hamburger on a conference table.”
© Copyright 2021 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.