Rod Rosenstein, Jay Leno chat at correspondents' weekend brunch
© Judy Kurtz

Some high-profile Trump officials helped celebrate the First Amendment on Saturday at an annual brunch ahead of the White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) dinner.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE has directed members of his administration to stay away from the main event itself, but plenty of aides have attended parties this weekend surrounding the dinner.

White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet George Conway calls Trump a 'racist president' in new op-ed George Conway's group: Trump tweets 'should be rejected by every American' MORE and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinFeds will not charge officer who killed Eric Garner The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Judiciary issues blitz of subpoenas for Kushner, Sessions, Trump associates MORE were eyed alongside special guest Jay Leno at the Garden Brunch on Saturday.

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The daytime soiree at the Beall-Washington House in Georgetown featured a who's who of co-hosts, including Tammy Haddad, Hilary Rosen, Jean and Steve Case, Mark and Sally Ein, Jennifer Dunn, Zac Moffatt, Greta Van Susteren and John Coale, Franco Nuschese and Fritz Brogan.

The packed, invite-only event drew some surprising pairings, with Rosenstein seen chatting with former "Tonight Show" host Leno, while Conway posed for photos with Rosen, a Democratic strategist.

Earlier this week, the White House had instructed members of the Trump administration to forgo attending Saturday's WHCA dinner at the Washington Hilton. Trump — who's referred to the "fake news media" as the "enemy of the people" — said he planned to skip the lawmaker and journalist-filled dinner for the third year in a row.

In remarks at the brunch, CNN host Don LemonDon Carlton LemonHouston police chief slams Trump's planned ICE raids: 'All that does is create havoc' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi looks to tamp down Dem infighting Trump confidant: Acosta will be gone in weeks MORE told the crowd his response to people who've asked him about "certain people not being here today and not showing up for the White House Correspondents' dinner."

"If you're not here to celebrate America and the Constitution, then you don't need to be in these rooms," Lemon said.

At the brunch bash, Leno surprised U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Angela Morales-Biggs with some new wheels. The Purple Heart recipient asked if Leno was joking when he presented her the keys to a new Nissan Pathfinder — a gift sponsored by Wells Fargo and Jones Junction auto group.

"No, you think I'm a comedian that I'm joking?" Leno exclaimed to Morales-Biggs.

Leno, a well-known car enthusiast, told ITK that there have been a few car fanatics in Congress that he could talk shop with.

"[Late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Lindsey Graham: 'Graham wants to bring back 1950s McCarthyism' Meghan McCain knocks Lindsey Graham for defending Trump's tweets: 'This is not the person I used to know' MORE (R.Ariz.)] used to come to my garage. He borrowed my Corvette — laid a big strip of rubber on the front of the garage one day," Leno, who said the late lawmaker owned a '59 Corvette, recalled with a smile. "[Former Vice President Biden] come out to the garage, he poked around."

Also spotted at the event: Rep. Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodFreshman members form bipartisan task force on election vulnerabilities ahead of 2020 The Hill's Campaign Report: Debate puts Biden on the defensive Progressive group endorses three House freshmen MORE (D-Ill.), former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, CNN anchor Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul Tapper2020 Democrats call Trump's tweets about female Democrats racist CNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet Trump's tweets unify a fractured Democratic Party MORE — who arrived with a tote bag filled with copies of "Raise Your Hand," a book written by his 11-year-old daughter, Alice Paul Tapper — former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyBiden proposes tax increases for wealthy as part of health care plan The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur: Here's how to choose a president 2020 Democrats push tax hike on wealthy investors MORE (D-Md.), "House of Cards" star Michael Kelly, CNN's Kate Bolduan, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Heather Podesta, former Rep. James Moran (D-Va.), Betsy Fischer Martin, Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellOvernight Energy: Trump threatens veto on defense bill that targets 'forever chemicals' | Republicans form conservation caucus | Pressure mounts against EPA's new FOIA rule Trump threatens veto on defense bill that targets 'forever chemicals' Senate vote requires military, EPA to deal with harmful 'forever chemicals' MORE (D-Mich.), NBC News' Ali Velshi, CNN's Kate Bennett and David Rubenstein.