WASHINGTON – When the speeches wrapped up Friday in the East Room of the White House, President Donald Trump took the microphone for the final word and invited the LSU Tigers to the Oval Office for pictures. There, Trump said, the players and coaches could be photographed alongside the president and the Resolute Desk.
“It’s been there a long time,” Trump said of the desk. “A lot of presidents, some good, some not-so-good. But you’ve got a good one now, even though they’re trying to impeach the son of a bitch. Can you believe that?
“We’ve got the greatest economy we’ve ever had, Joe. We’ve got the greatest military. We rebuilt it. We took out those terrorists like your football team would have taken out those terrorists, right?”
On that note, the Tigers went to the Oval for their photos and a tour.
As coach Ed Orgeron, quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson stood behind him and with a trio of trophies in front, Trump had an ideal opportunity to distance himself from impeachment talk. Instead, he mentioned impeachment almost immediately, and it was a recurring theme throughout the ceremony. From the first minute of his speech, it became clear that Trump would not be talking solely about football, as trade deals with Mexico and China were referenced.
Trump eventually got around to LSU by calling the Tigers one of the best teams in college football history. Running through their season-long resume, Trump pointed out wins over Auburn and Alabama (which Trump attended). He got on LSU’s case for trailing by 10 during the first half against Clemson in the title bout, and Trump brought up the other Tigers again by mentioning how much fast food they ate during their championship visit last year.
Orgeron, who had visited the White House four times previously, had high praise for Trump as a host.
“I want to thank President Donald Trump for spending more time than any other president before with our football team on a personal basis,” he said.
A poignant moment came when Trump singled out offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, whose daughter-in-law Carley McCord died in a plane crash on Dec. 28, the day of the semifinal matchup against Oklahoma. He also spoke directly to the receiver duo of Jefferson and Chase, telling them, “you’re going to make so much money.”
It wasn’t the first – or last – time Trump mentioned wealth during the address. He followed his comments to Chase and Jefferson by reminding Burrow he is primed for a massive payday himself. Before that, he’d alluded to the $1.775 million Orgeron earned in bonuses this year, and tied that into an aside about the success of the stock market.
Burrow, who presented Trump with a No. 45 LSU jersey, thanked the president for hosting the team on short notice so the players leaving to prepare for the NFL draft could attend.
“I’ll keep this short and sweet, because I’m sure Mr. President has more pressing matters to get to,” Burrow said. “I just wanted to say it’s truly an honor to be here.”
Later, after the Tigers’ tour, Burrow told reporters, “That was such a great experience. He showed so much love to everyone on our team. I don’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat, don’t care about politics at all, that was an awesome experience for everybody.”
Trump, who has friends in the Patriots organization — Robert Kraft, quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick — was quick to draw parallels between LSU and New England. He called Burrow “Tom Brady Jr.” and said Belichick has told him he’s a fan of Orgeron’s.
“(Belichick) has a lot of respect for you and he thinks you’re a great coach,” Trump said. “… I just want to congratulate you. It’s great to get to know you. You have a real friend here.”