PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif. (AP/KTVU) - President Donald Trump is making a rare visit to California, a Democratic stronghold where he is expected to rake in millions of dollars during a series of fundraisers for his reelection effort that are being met by wealthy supporters as well as jeering protesters.
Late Tuesday morning, Air Force One touched down at Moffett Field in Mountain View, making this Trump's first trip to the Bay Area as president. The last time he was here was in 2016 in San Jose when he was campaigning. That visit was marred by violence and protests between the left and the right.
Trump exited the plane, gave the crowd a few fist bumps, shook hands with Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney, who is also California's Republican National Committeewoman, and got into a limousine to head to the secretive luncheon.
Dhillon called his Portola Valley fundraiser an "unmitigated success" with an estimated 400 guests who attended and that the president raised $4 million. It was a quick visit, just over two hours. By Tuesday afternoon, the president's motorcade left the private driveway of Sun Microsystems founder Scott McNealy.
Former President Barack Obama held a fundraiser on this same street hosted by McNealy's neighbor, venture capitalist of Martins Beach infamy, Vinod Khosla. Khosla happens to be a co-founder of Sun Microsystems.
Those who could not afford a ticket were happy to see the president's entourage.
"[It's] exciting. It's always exciting to see the motorcade. It moves very quick and all the vehicles and emergency vehicles...too bad, my kids weren't here to witness it," said Mike Smith of Portola Valley. "They would have enjoyed it."
Ahead of the visit, there was a shroud of mystery surrounding the exact location of the event. KTVU had confirmed that Palo Alto and Mountain View police were notified of his visit. Even the guests weren't officially told. They met in an office parking lot in Palo Alto, before getting shuttled to a home in Portola Valley. They were told to check in their cell phones before they entered the party.
In an unusual move, Trump campaign officials - not his top donors - were listed as sponsors of the event. Dhillon said there were concerns that Antifa, an anti-fascist group, could stir violent protests.
Before and during his arrival, protesters flew a baby Trump balloon in Portola Valley, showing the president in diapers, on Alpine Road, where the motorcade passed through.
By mid-morning, a crowd of critics had arrived along the side of the road, holding anti-Trump signs and waving large pumpkins.
"I'm clearly against Trump," said Sandi Engel of Portola Valley, saying the president is full of "hate and lies" and that she disagreed with him on everything from guns to immigration. "I think he's a coward to come to such a small town like Portola Valley. Why didn't he go to a bigger city like San Jose or San Francisco?"
"It's not a neighborhood that is blindly accepting of Trump coming in and doing his thing. Not everyone agrees with his policies," said Paul Lloyd of Portola Valley.
"This neighborhood is about the wilderness and about being outside and those are things that Trump is opposed to," said Julie Lloyd, also a Portola Valley resident.
Trump has routinely mocked California over its liberal culture, policies and politics. His visit this week signals that despite the state's decidedly leftward swing in recent years, there are still plenty of wealthy Republicans who support him.
"There's not been a president in living history that is as unpopular in the state of California as Trump," said Mike Madrid, a GOP political consultant who is an outspoken Trump critic. "But our money spends the same as everyone else's."
Trump continues to rake in gobs of cash more than a year out from the November 2020 contest, with his campaign and the Republican National Committee pulling in more than $210 million since the start of 2019, Federal Election Commission records show. That's more than all the current Democrats seeking to replace him raised combined during that period.
The California events, which will be spread across two days in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego, are expected to bring in an additional $15 million, according to a Republican official familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
California was an incubator for the modern conservative movement that swept the state's former Gov. Ronald Reagan into the White House in 1980. But demographic changes and an influx of new residents have helped drastically rework the political contours of the country's most populated state, with the former GOP stronghold of Orange County now home to more registered Democrats than Republicans. For Republicans, who have been resigned to political irrelevance at the state level, a donation to Trump can amount to its own form of protest.
"By showing up to a fundraiser deep in the belly of the beast, one is saying: 'I don't care what the liberal politicians are saying and I want to show my support for him publicly,'" Dhillon said. She added: "I sold $100,000 worth of (tickets), and I could have sold another $100,000 more."
Organizers said Trump will likely be back in the Bay Area in 2020.
Asociated Press writers Brian Slodysko and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report. KTVU's Lisa Fernandez, Aja Seldon, Azenith Smith and Allie Rasmus contributed to this report.