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 TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida 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 ConwayBillboard warns Trump's Iowa rally will be 'superspreader event' White House Halloween to be 'modified' to meet CDC guidelines: report Minnesota health officials connect COVID-19 cases to Trump, Biden campaign events MORE and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump turns his ire toward Cabinet members Ex-deputy attorney general says Justice Dept. 'will ignore' Trump's threats against political rivals The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump's erratic tweets upend stimulus talks; COVID-19 spreads in White House 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 LemonSchwarzenegger: California GOP has gone 'off the rails' with unofficial ballot boxes CNN's Lemon, MSNBC's Maddow rail against NBC for Trump town hall: 'Embarrassing ratings ploy' CNN's Lemon: Asking Biden, Harris about 'hypothetical' court packing 'not a legitimate question' 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 McCainSenate is leaning to the Democrats, big time, with a wave Budowsky: Trump's COVID-19 death toll dominates election Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein 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 UnderwoodIs there a nurse in the 'House'? Hillicon Valley: Congressional antitrust report rips tech firms | Facebook tightens ban on QAnon content | Social media groups urged to weed out disinformation targeting minority voters Officials urge social media groups to weed out election disinformation targeting minority voters MORE (D-Ill.), former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, CNN anchor Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperNY Times slammed for glowing Farrakhan op-ed: 'You would think he was a gentleman' Democrats condemn Trump's rhetoric against Michigan governor as allies defend rally Illinois governor blames Trump's allies for state's wrong direction on coronavirus 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 DelaneyCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer says Trump right on China but wrong on WHO; CDC issues new guidance for large gatherings The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what 'policing' means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight 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 DingellCedric Richmond's next move: 'Sky's the limit' if Biden wins Pelosi, Mnuchin continue COVID-19 talks amid dwindling odds for deal Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair MORE (D-Mich.), NBC News' Ali Velshi, CNN's Kate Bennett and David Rubenstein.