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February 11, 2019

SALENA ZITO: A surprise virtual visit from the President.

No president has ever visited here before. So, it was a pretty big deal when 14 local high-school students had President Trump in their classroom, talking to them Wednesday, all thanks to a Skype video call that Sen. Joe Manchin was having with a civics class.

Brennan Williams is still grinning ear to ear a few days after the experience. “Well, I mean, I’ve never talked to somebody that important before, and it was just crazy,” he said of initially talking to Manchin.

“Then, the president of the United States calls the senator and then decides he wants to talk to us, well, that was even crazier. I just couldn’t stop smiling; I still can’t,” the 18-year-old senior said.

His classmate Parker Stout, 18, said it was an honor he will never forget. “We prepared for our Skype call with Sen. Manchin by watching the State of the Union Address Tuesday night. What we never expected was that that would include talking to the president,” Stout said.

Manchin said the once-in-a-lifetime event occurred Wednesday afternoon during a Skype video call that Webster County High School principal Stacey Cutlip organized with the senator’s office to discuss issues that came up during the State of the Union address, as well as other topics.

“They wanted to talk about the environment, they want to talk about coal, the jobs possibilities, what’s going to happen. And they want to talk about guns, as you know that’s usually a big thing. But now the front-burner was about the shutdown, how we’re going to handle it and border security,” Manchin explained in an interview with the Washington Examiner.

“So, we were talking about all those things, and we were 20 minutes or so into our conversation, and I see on my cellphone “Unknown” pops up. Well I know the way it pops up, it’s either going to be someone from Schumer’s office or McConnell’s office calling about something,” he explains.

“Or maybe the White House. You never know,” he says.

Turns out it was the White House, specifically President Trump’s assistant on the other line.

“So, I pick up the phone and his assistant Madeline says, ‘The president wants to talk to you, Joe.’ And I said, ‘OK, Madeline. I’m on a call. Let me just tell these kids I’m gonna put them on hold for a little bit. Just a second, I won’t tell them anything,’” Manchin explained.

He tells the kids he needs to put them on pause for a few minutes and from their vantage point, Stout and Williams explained all they saw was a black screen. A few moments later, Manchin comes back and tells the students he has “a little surprise for you.”

Manchin put the phone on speaker, and the president starts to chat with the kids.

Odds on Manchin switching parties just went up a bit.