I outworked anybody who ever ran for office, Donald Trump tells donors at inaugural dinner

President-elect Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, arrive at a dinner for campaign donors on the eve of his inauguration, at Union Station in Washington.
President-elect Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, arrive at a dinner for campaign donors on the eve of his inauguration, at Union Station in Washington.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - On the eve of his inauguration, President-elect Donald Trump boasted to campaign donors about his election victory and the hard work behind it and touted an incoming Cabinet "the likes of which has never been appointed".

An upbeat Mr Trump delivered meandering remarks on Thursday night (Jan 19) at a black-tie "candlelight dinner" for donors at Union Station that capped off a day of inaugural activities in advance of his swearing in as the nation's 45th president on Friday (Jan 20).

Mr Trump began by reminiscing about "this beautiful map" that emerged on election night, one that showed him with more electoral votes than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, despite his loss in the popular vote.

"There were a lot of red states that weren't supposed to be red," Mr Trump told the crowd. "That was some big victory... Records were set that haven't been beaten since Ronald Reagan."

He also cited another factor in his victory: "I think I outworked anybody who ever ran for office."

Mr Trump predicted Republicans would pick up seats in Congress in two years and said that when he seeks re-election in 2020, "we're going to win the old-fashioned way: We're going to win because we did so well" in office.

With several of his Cabinet nominees facing rough confirmation proceedings in the Senate, Mr Trump declared that "the other side is going absolutely crazy".

 

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Because of ethical issues and other concerns, Senate Democrats are attempting to slow down the confirmation of several of Mr Trump's nominees, a dynamic that Mr Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, complained about earlier on Thursday.

"There's not a pick that I don't love, and if there was, I'd tell you right now," Mr Trump said of his 21 Cabinet nominees.

He singled out his final nominee - former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue for agriculture secretary - saying he had been sold on his qualifications weeks ago.

But Mr Trump said he continued to interview people, including some who were "politically correct" - an apparent reference to pressure Mr Trump received to add a Latino or another woman to his Cabinet.

He said he remained sold on Mr Perdue in part because he is a farmer, which other nominees were not.

Mr Trump also offered shout-outs during the dinner to several people who had helped him during the campaign, including his daughter, Ivanka, who was in attendance.

Mr Trump said his daughter had "married very well", a reference to her husband, Mr Jared Kushner, whom Mr Trump has hired as a senior adviser in the White House. Mr Kushner's portfolio will include the Middle East.

"I sort of stole her husband," Mr Trump told the crowd. "He is so great. If you can't produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can."

Mr Trump also praised outgoing Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who will become White House chief of staff when Mr Trump is sworn in at noon on Friday.

Even though Mr Priebus had to remain neutral in a Republican primary in which there was a crowded field, "I always felt like he favoured me," Mr Trump said.

The president-elect also summoned his campaign manager, Ms Kellyanne Conway - or "my Kellyanne", as he called her - up to the stage.

Mr Trump praised Ms Conway's ability to appear in hostile television interviews and more than hold her own. "She gets on and she does destroy them," Mr Trump said. "Thank you, baby, thank you."

Before departing, Mr Trump also relayed his earlier inaugural events on Thursday, including a wreath laying at Arlington Cemetery.

"It was so beautiful," Mr Trump said of the event, adding that there were "so many people".

He also said the crowd at a "welcome concert" at the Lincoln Memorial had vastly exceeded his expectations and that he was not getting enough credit for the remarks he delivered there.

"The big one is tomorrow at around 12," Mr Trump said, referring to his inaugural speech. "It may rain, it may not rain," Mr Trump said. "I don't really care."

He cited one advantage to a potential downpour: "People will realise it's my real hair."