by Marni Pyke, Daily Herald
It's either vote for me or for a bunch of "lunatics," a freewheeling President Donald Trump told an audience at an exclusive fundraiser luncheon Monday.
The president delivered a stream-of-consciousness speech that pumped up GOP guests, got laughs at the expense of Democrats but also contained unexpected policy reveals, Palatine Township Republican committeeman Aaron Del Mar said.
Tickets for the event at the Trump Tower in Chicago started at $2,800 and attracted a crowd of about 250, Del Mar estimated. Among them: members of the Ricketts family who own the Chicago Cubs; sandwich magnate Jimmy John Liautaud; downstate Illinois Republican Congressmen Mike Bost, Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood; and Trump's son, Eric.
"He talked for about an hour, so everyone got their money's worth," said Del Mar, who was about 25 feet from the president.
One policy statement concerned student debt, Del Mar said. Noting some of his Democratic rivals have promised to forgive billions in college loans, Trump said, "We have to do something about that," and promised an announcement soon. "He was priming the pump," Del Mar surmised.
Trump also talked about "Right to Try" legislation, which he signed into law in 2018 allowing people with terminal illnesses to access certain experimental drugs.
Other topics included Trump's desire to make a trade deal with China, and the House Democrats' impeachment inquiries into whether he pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, which the president characterized as a "giant witch hunt."
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider of Bartlett called the lunch "a great event … . (There is) great enthusiasm for the president in Illinois."
Below Trump Tower on Wacker Drive, a crowd gathered to protest the event, among them Lisle's Jax West, a Democrat.
"It's important we show Trump, he's not welcome," she said. "I want everybody represented that can be, suburbs, city, all colors, all genders, all religions … (saying) we don't recognize you -- you are not our president."
The fundraiser generated more than $4 million, party officials said.