Republican opponents of Trump were unimpressed with the candidates remarks Thursday while his supporters gave multiple standing ovations
Republican opponents of Donald Trump in Congress described meetings with the presumptive GOP nominee as awkward on Thursday and sparred with him, while Trumps supporters raved about his visit to Capitol Hill.
Trump held separate meetings with both the House and Senate caucuses on a sweltering summer day as he tried to continue to unify the GOP behind him.
The Republican nominee, accompanied by his daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and chief strategist Paul Manafort, started the day by meeting with House Republicans at the Capitol Hill Club. Cable news pundit Larry Kudlow introduced Trump, who also joked and exchanged hugs with speaker Paul Ryan, who has long been unenthusiastic about the real estate developers candidacy.
Some House members left the private meetings giving a highly positive account of Trumps comments. Rep Ralph Abraham of Louisiana said his partys nominee talked about growth, security and prosperity, all the good things while fellow Louisiana congressman and Senate candidate John Fleming said there was a lot of positive energy and the entire conference was uniting behind Donald Trump.
In his remarks, Trump reportedly addressed a number of policy issues while also harping on what he felt was unfair media criticism over his praise for Saddam Hussein killing terrorists in recent days. His grievances were shared by many in the room. Rep Trent Franks of Arizona, a self-described former critic of Trump complained to reporters afterwards that you missed all the ugly things he said about Saddam Hussein but if he says he [Saddam] kills terrorists hes in love with Saddam Hussein. Of all the stupidity and misappropriation of the truth.
Although Trump received multiple standing ovations, he may not have been the most popular member of his family in the room. When Rep Peter King of New York said members had their choice who to take a picture with, they flocked towards Trumps daughter, Ivanka. Shes the star, King said
But there were also critics in the room. South Carolina Rep Mark Sanford mocked Trump afterward for referencing article XII of the Constitution in response to a question about article I, which delineates Congresss powers. There are only seven articles in the Constitution.
Other longtime Trump detractors were left unimpressed, too. Rep Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an Iraq War veteran, grimaced at Trumps unprompted mention of the Saddam controversy. Rep Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania rolled his eyes in describing Trump to reporters. He complained about the media, shocking, said Dent. The Pennsylvania Republican also noted that Trump proclaimed: Hispanics love him. Dent noted that this statement was not borne out in any polls.
In a meeting afterwards with senators only a few blocks away, things got more heated. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who has pointedly refused to endorse Trump, reportedly confronted the Republican nominee. Flake noted that he was the Arizona senator who wasnt captured, a reference to Trumps disparaging remarks last year about John McCain, and Trump responded by predicting Flake would fail to win re-election. Illinois senator Mark Kirk, who has withdrawn his endorsement of the nominee, later told reporters: I think Trump will get a vote like Alan Keyes got in Illinois, around 28%, a reference to the sacrificial lamb candidate who ran for the Senate against Barack Obama in 2004.
Other Republicans tried to play down the exchanges between Flake and Trump. Sen John Thune of South Dakota told reporters that they were simply the kind of frank exchange you have inside the family while Sen Thom Tillis of North Carolina insisted that this was a perfectly appropriate discussion that only made up a few minutes of a longer meeting.
Yet despite those conflicts, many senators enthused about the meeting. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a longtime supporter of Trump, said there were a massive number of converts after the meeting. After the gathering, Trump held a one-on-one meeting with primary rival Ted Cruz and asked the Texas senator to speak at the convention. Cruz, who has yet to endorse him, agreed.
Others attending praised Trumps policy chops. Tim Scott of South Carolina thought the discussion was meaty and there was a lot of policy while senator Bob Corker of Tennessee noted that Trump showed theres a lot more nuance to his positions than people realized. However, there was a tendency for the presumptive nominee to ramble, as Sen Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma noted: Youve watched him; he talked about every issue.
Yet all that policy detail still didnt woo the most diehard never-Trump member of the Senate. Ben Sasse has long been vocal about his opposition to Trump and in a statement, a spokesman for the Nebraska senator said: Senator Sasse went to todays meeting ready to listen. Senator Sasse introduced himself to Mr Trump and the two had a gracious exchange. Mr Sasse continues to believe that our country is in a bad place and, with these two candidates, this election remains a dumpster fire. Nothing has changed.