President Donald Trump is planning to attend the national college football championship game between Georgia and Alabama on Monday in Atlanta, according to three people with direct knowledge of his plans.
He is set to be hosted by Nick Ayers, a Georgia native who is Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, and his wife Jamie Ayers. First Lady Melania Trump is also expected to attend the game, which will be held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium under stepped-up security.
Atlanta Police spokesman Carlos Campos said the department is working with the Secret Service to ratchet up security for his arrival. It’s not immediately known whether two other top Trump allies in Georgia – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Sen. David Perdue – will join them.
This would be Trump’s second visit to Georgia since winning the presidency. He headlined the National Rifle Association’s convention in Atlanta in April and stumped for Karen Handel, the Republican candidate for Georgia’s nationally-watched 6th District special election.
It could also make for a tense situation.
About a year ago, Trump called the congressional district that sweeps through the heart of Atlanta a “crime infested” area that is in “horrible shape” after U.S. Rep. John Lewis said he planned to boycott Trump’s inauguration. And the halftime performer, Kendrick Lamar, is an outspoken critic of Trump.
The visit comes as Trump focuses his attention on the college football playoffs even as he continues a war of words with the NFL over players who protest social injustice during the national anthem.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders opened her press briefing Tuesday by congratulating the SEC schools “from two great states, both in the heart of Trump country” for bowl victories that propelled them to the championship.
Trump carried both states in 2016 – Alabama by nearly 30 points and Georgia by about five. But Alabama voters dealt Trump a blow in December by electing Democrat Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate over Republican Roy Moore, who Trump endorsed.
When pressed about what she meant by calling the two states “Trump country,” Sanders said she was simply trying to congratulate “two great football teams in the greatest conference in the country.”
As the room erupted into laughter, she added: “Which I’m sure that most of you will all agree, even those that don’t live in one of those lucky states.”