Vaus and Chabad of Poway Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein stood with military brass at the foot of Air Force One as Trump descended the ramp at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
“The whole reason I was there was to express Poway’s appreciation for how he and his administration stood by us over the last 144 days,” Vaus said, referring to the Passover shooting that left a Chabad of Poway congregant dead and several wounded.
Among the injured was Goldstein, still wearing a blue bandage on his right hand.
Vaus said Goldstein and Trump “have a real connection” growing out of that April tragedy and giving way to “constant contact” with the White House (“They keep checking in to make sure we have everything that we need.”)
The 58-year-old rabbi also visited the Oval Office.
Eight days ago, Vaus said, he and Goldstein sought to return the courtesy.
“The rabbi and I had jointly reached out to the White House to see if there was the opportunity in his schedule to come and visit the Chabad of Poway,” he said.
They couldn’t, but officials said: “How about you guys come and greet the president?”
Goldstein — who later attended the U.S. Grant Hotel luncheon where Trump was holding a fundraiser — wasn’t available for comment.
But Vaus said: “The president definitely seemed delighted to have the rabbi there. He said: ‘How are you doing? is everything OK?'”
Vaus, 67, called the minute-long chat surreal.
Pointing at Vaus, Trump told Goldstein: “This guy’s doing a great job, isn’t he?”
Vaus also had something for the commander-in-chief — a “mayor’s medallion” he had made about five years ago.
He handed it to Trump “as a token of our appreciation for the support he and his administration has shown,” Vaus said in a phone interview. “He seemed to really enjoy getting that, and he slipped it into his pocket.”
Thrills didn’t stop there.
Near the end of an animated conversation, he said, Goldstein “in all his New Yorkness said: ‘Mr. President, we need a picture with the mayor.’ So the president said: ‘Sure!'”
Vaus handed his iPhone 8 Plus to “the guy who was standing closest by.”
Turns out the silver-haired gentleman in gray suit and blue tie was Robert O’Brien, the U.S. hostage negotiator that Trump named as his new national security adviser only hours earlier.
O’Brien handed the phone to a younger man, who snapped a picture of a smiling Trump between Vaus and Goldstein — and handed the phone back.
Vaus had little expectations the late morning visit to Miramar — where he met Trump for the first time — would unfold as it did,
“Honestly, I didn’t know as we arrived if we were just there to be in the rope line, with everybody else, or what,” Vaus said. “It was quickly pretty clear that they had other plans for us.”
Vaus and Goldstein later watched as Trump shook hands, posed for selfies and autographed hats and other items for nearly 10 minutes before boarding Marine One and the helicopter trip downtown.
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At Miramar, someone held out a copy of “The Art of War” by ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu for Trump to sign, which he reportedly did.
Vaus, a former children’s singer/songwriter, recalled how he sang at the White House and saw Reagan when he visited Washington for an America’s Cup celebration.
“I actually worked with the Reagan White House on the ‘Just Say No’ to drugs campaign,” he said. “But this is the first time I’ve really had a serious little … one-on-one with a sitting president.”
He added: “You know, when you see Air Force One roll up in all its majesty, and the president — no matter who the president is — standing at the top of the stairs, you realize that’s a lifetime moment.”
Afterward, Vaus drove Goldstein downtown.
“Rabbi Goldstein had been invited to attend the lunch, so I promised I would drive him down there,” he said. “I was his Uber driver.”
Poway Mayor, Chabad Rabbi Welcome Trump to San Diego Fundraising Visit was last modified: September 21st, 2019 by Ken Stone
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