Donald Trump Holds Tense Meeting With Senate Republicans

Donald Trump Holds Tense Meeting With Senate Republicans

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Donald Trump held a tense meeting with Republican senators and sought to make peace with Senator Ted Cruz, his former rival for the presidential nomination, in a whirl through Washington intended to mend fissures within a Republican Party that remains deeply skeptical about his candidacy, the New York Times reported.

Mr. Trump huddled with Mr. Cruz and Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, around noon, according to two people familiar with the matter, after meetings with House and Senate members that were organized to quell lingering concerns within the party about its presumptive nominee.

The meetings came as Mr. Trump continues to raise anxiety among Republicans about his temperament less than two weeks before the party holds its national convention in Cleveland. As with the convention, which begins July 18, some leading Republicans including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a former primary opponent, decided to pass on the meeting.

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Some doubters, including Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, did attend and, according to people with knowledge of their exchanges, Mr. Trump did not appreciate being confronted about his past statements.

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After the usual pleasantries and a discussion about the state of his campaign, the presumptive Republican nominee lashed out at Mr. Sasse, who has declined to endorse Mr. Trump. The New York business tycoon asked Mr. Sasse if he preferred to have Hillary Clinton as president.

James Wegmann, a spokesman for Mr. Sasse, said the meeting did not change the senator’s mind. “Mr. Sasse continues to believe that our country is in a bad place and, with these two candidates, this election remains a Dumpster fire,” he said.

Things became even more pitched when Mr. Flake, who has also withheld his endorsement, objected to Mr. Trump’s statements about Mexican Americans and his attacks on a federal judge about his Hispanic descent. He described Mr. Trump’s language as offensive and wrong. Mr. Trump responded dismissively.

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Mr. Trump also denounced Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, who did not attend the meeting and who withdrew his endorsement of the nominee over his inflammatory comments about the judge. Mr. Trump, apparently feeling under siege, said Mr. Kirk should not have rescinded his support, according to one attendee.

A dejected Mr. Kirk said later that it was his understanding Mr. Trump had called him a “loser” and that he did not believe that the candidate could win Illinois in the fall.

Mr. Trump has disappointed some members of the party who were hopeful that his campaign would become more professional and disciplined ahead of the general election. Mr. Trump doused some of those hopes on Wednesday night, when he went on an extended rant attacking his critics during a speech in Ohio.

The tense exchanges with the senators followed a more upbeat session with House members who met with Mr. Trump at the Capitol Hill Club. According to two members in attendance, the conversation was fairly subdued and focused on border security, the need to protect the Second Amendment and the high costs associated with the Affordable Care Act, the health law that Mr. Trump wants to repeal and replace.

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As he did in a speech in Cincinnati on Wednesday, Mr. Trump complained about the tough media coverage he has faced, particularly the portrayal of him as someone who admires Saddam Hussein, and he bragged of his impressive performance in the primary elections.

Despite the recent protectionist tenor of his campaign, Mr. Trump insisted that he is a devoted free trader and that he wants to renegotiate deals with other countries so that they favor America.

Although the House members did not confront Mr. Trump about his policies, one did ask him how he could help the party maintain control of the Senate and the House, suggesting some concern about Republican losses in the House in the November elections.

Representative John Mica, Republican of Florida, emerged from the meeting saying Mr. Trump had been greeted favorably by House Republicans, who gave him “two or three” standing ovations while he was present.


Speaker Paul D. Ryan said the meeting was “great” during his weekly news conference and declined to discuss the controversy over Mr. Trump’s recent Twitter post of a Star of David shape in an image suggesting that Mrs. Clinton is corrupt.

There were also signs of skepticism.

Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, said he could sense some hesitation in the room, his own included. Mr. Kinzinger, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Mr. Trump’s recent remarks about Saddam Hussein were not helpful.

“I’m not a Never Trump guy, I’m a Republican — I want to support him,” he said. “But things like saying the Saddam Hussein comment are not helping me to get there.”

Resistance to Mr. Trump was also on display outside of the meetings. As the meeting with House Republicans was going on during a sweltering summer morning, a small cadre of protesters chanted “Dump Donald Trump!” from across the street. They waved signs with enlarged images of several lawmakers edited to wear Mr. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” caps.

Among the photos, labeled the “Party of Trump” by the demonstrators, were Senators Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Rob Portman of Ohio — vulnerable Republicans facing tough re-election fights who have been cautious about being tied too closely to their party’s polarizing presidential nominee.