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 TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Veterans group backs lawsuits to halt Trump's use of military funding for border wall Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails 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 ConwayTrump embarks on Twitter spree amid impeachment inquiry, Syria outrage The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges Trump offers condolences on frequent foe Cummings: 'Very hard, if not impossible, to replace' MORE and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump attacks Sessions: A 'total disaster' and 'an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama' Mueller rejoins DC law firm Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it 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 LemonConservatives slam Beto O'Rourke over threat to tax-exempt status for religious organizations CNN LGBTQ town hall interrupted by protesters O'Rourke: Religious institutions should lose tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage 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 McCainPublisher announces McSally book planned for May release Democrats lead Trump by wide margins in Minnesota Here's what to watch this week on impeachment 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 UnderwoodHouse Dems introduce bill to fight social media disinformation House passes bill to revamp medical screenings for migrants at border The Hill's 12:30 Report: All eyes on Pelosi as calls for impeachment grow MORE (D-Ill.), former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, CNN anchor Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperRomney earns rants and raves for secret Twitter name CNN hires former GOP Rep. Sean Duffy Biden praises Buttigieg for criticizing GOP attacks: 'That's a good man' 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 DelaneyWarren, Yang fight over automation divides experts The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges Warren's surge brings new scrutiny to signature wealth tax 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 DingellPelosi focused on narrow impeachment probe on Ukraine: report Pelosi announces launch of formal impeachment inquiry into Trump More Democrats threaten impeachment over Trump's dealings with Ukraine MORE (D-Mich.), NBC News' Ali Velshi, CNN's Kate Bennett and David Rubenstein.