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Pritzker to attend White House Correspondents dinner this weekend

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to reporters during a press conference at the Illinois State Police Forensic Science Center, Wednesday morning, April 24, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a persistent critic of President Donald Trump, will be attending a Washington, D.C., event the president is once again boycotting: the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

Pritzker will be a guest of the Wall Street Journal at the black-tie dinner on Saturday, the governor’s office said. It’s the second dinner Pritzker will attend that’s hosted by a press organization, demonstrating he — unlike former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner — is interested in being a player on the D.C. scene. Rauner didn’t attend any press dinners while in office.

“Governor Pritzker is looking forward to attending the White House Correspondents Association event as the guest of the Wall Street Journal, and he will continue to make the case for stabilizing Illinois’ finances and making our income tax system fair,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “He also expects to continue to push federal officials for Illinois’ fair share of funding.”

Pritzker this week told the Sun-Times he believes Trump should be impeached following the release of the Mueller report: “I was right two years ago when I called for his impeachment, and I’m right today. I’m sticking by that.” Pritzker, a billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune and a philanthropist, also said he’ll “work hard to defeat” the president in the 2020 election.

Trump took notice of Pritzker at a February gathering of governors at the White House, calling him a “friend” despite the Democrat’s vocal criticisms through the entirety of his gubernatorial campaign.

Trump is skipping the dinner for a third consecutive year, and this week advised White House staffers not to attend. Trump called the dinner “boring” and “negative,” and will instead be at a campaign rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Trump had suggested he might attend this year’s dinner, which is intended as a celebration of the First Amendment, but later confirmed his absence. Last year, Trump tweeted the event was “DEAD,” a “total disaster” and “an embarrassment to our great Country” after comedian Michelle Wolf delivered an anti-Trump stand-up act that also criticized Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

The correspondents chose a safer route this year, opting for an address by Ron Chernow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential historian.

In March, Pritzker put on white tie and tails for the Gridiron Club and Foundation annual dinner, featuring club members performing in musical parody skits lampooning, on a bipartisan basis, White House, congressional and political figures. This year, Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke for the Democrats; Sen. John Kennedy represented Republicans, and Ivanka Trump stood in for her father. Pritzker was invited to the dinner by club member Lynn Sweet, the Sun-Times Washington Bureau chief.