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Posted: Dec 23, 2018 7:36 AM
Updated: Dec 23, 2018 7:41 AM

A government shutdown may force President Trump to spend Christmas in Washington -- but in sunny South Florida, his Mar-a-Lago estate beckons.

The massive security apparatus that travels ahead of the President is already in place. Aides and agents are standing by. And Trump's suitcases have already been zipped up with his golf clothes.

It may all be for naught if Trump and lawmakers cannot reach a compromise on funding the government past midnight. The White House says Trump will not travel to Florida if the partial government shutdown takes effect.

After meeting Senate Republicans at the White House on Friday morning, Trump did not offer any new plan that might garner enough support for passage. That made a shutdown appear more likely.

But it did not stop preparations for Trump's potential arrival in Florida.

The security perimeter that surrounds Mar-a-Lago when the President is in residence has already been established, with traffic diverted along Ocean Boulevard away from the resort. Dozens of Secret Service agents and officers are already on the grounds, using dogs to screen vehicles and guests entering the club.

The Secret Service falls under the Department of Homeland Security, which is among the nine agencies and departments whose funding will expire at midnight Friday. In contingency plans submitted to the Office of Management and Budget, the Secret Service said nearly 6,000 of its employees are considered essential, meaning they would still need to report to work in a shutdown.

But until Congress and Trump approve new spending, those employees would go unpaid.

Some White House staffers have also traveled down ahead of the President, but are increasingly doubtful he will arrive here on Friday -- if at all.

Protectively preparing

At the White House, aides have protectively been preparing for a departure in case a deal can be struck. The President and first lady's suitcases have been packed, according to a person familiar with the matter, and some of the staffers who were supposed to travel with Trump also arrived to the White House Friday prepared to fly in the afternoon, just in case.

At Palm Beach International Airport, preparations for Air Force One's arrival had begun, including lining up dozens of yellow school buses to create a security barrier.

A billboard on the route from the airport to Mar-a-Lago has also been erected. From far away it looks like an official Trump sign, but when the words come into view, it becomes clear it's not: "Impeachment Now: Make America America Again." It's paid for by the liberal Mad Dog PAC.

The black, red and gold Trump-branded Boeing 757 is parked on the tarmac, and some of Trump's family is already here.

Donald Trump Jr. spoke on Thursday evening alongside his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle at Mar-a-Lago, which was hosting a gala event for Turning Point USA, the group for young conservatives. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh and the activists Charlie Kirk and Candice Owens also spoke.

Mar-a-Lago employees have been told to prepare for any contingency, a person familiar with the instructions said. Planning had been underway for a Christmas Eve dinner followed by midnight mass at nearby Bethesda by the Sea church, along with Christmas dinner and a black tie New Year's Eve party. On January 5, Trump has also been expected to attend the Policeman's Ball at the club.

At Trump International Golf Course, across the bridge in West Palm Beach, police officers have already set up positions around the exterior where cameras have sometimes captured a glimpse of the President golfing. New signs have been posted along the fence warning "No Trespassing" in both English and Spanish.

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