Donald Trump is taking his amped-up outsider campaign to the heart of the establishment Monday with a series of events in Washington, D.C., that range from the mysterious to the controversial and even commercial.
Amidst the public split within the GOP over his campaign, Trump will reportedly attend a meeting of Republicans — including perhaps some members of Congress — at the Jones Day law firm. That’s slated to be followed by a press availability at his Trump International Hotel project. His day will wrap up with remarks at AIPAC, where his fellow Republican rivals will also take the stage.
The GOP frontrunner heads to Washington with controversy and violence left in his wake.
Rallies in Utah and Arizona on Friday and Saturday were plagued by protests that in some cases escalated into violent altercations. At two Arizona rallies on Saturday, in Fountain Hills and Tucson, arrests of protesters and supporters alike were made.
And Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, once again made headlines, this time for allegedly grabbing a protester by the collar in an effort to escort him out. The Trump campaign denies that the arm shown in videos of the interaction was Lewandowski’s, instead blaming the man to his left, who NBC News identified as a member of the Trump campaign’s private, plain clothes, security detail.
Off the trail, Trump is still dogged by a so-called “establishment” class that seeks to overtake him, with new headlines each day about strategists and super PACs seeking to make real threats of a contested convention.
The most potentially intriguing event of the day is his reported meeting with Republicans at Jones Day law firm. NBC News has not confirmed the names of those planning on attending, but has confirmed that no members of either the House or Senate leadership will attend.
Trump has spoken with GOP leaders in Congress in recent days as a broad range of efforts have been waged to prevent him from becoming the GOP nominee. Attempts to contact the offices of Sen. Jeff Sessions, who endorsed Trump just before the Alabama primary, and Sen. Tom Cotton, who POLITICO is reporting will attend, went unanswered.
Trump’s speaking slot Monday evening is a prime time at the conference, one that allowed him the excuse of not attending the planned Fox News debate in Salt Lake City. The debate was subsequently canceled when, after Trump announced that he wouldn’t attend, fellow Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he wouldn’t debate if Trump wasn’t present.
Shortly after, RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer confirmed the cancellation of the debate and Fox News Executive Vice President of News Michael Clemente said in a statement that “obviously, there needs to be more than one participant.”
For his part, the man who has consistently taken the center podium said that he’s had enough with these debates and — as many frontrunners have argued in the past — does not want to participate in more of them. Trump told “Fox and Friends” the day he canceled his debate appearance “I think it’s enough,” noting that he doesn’t “mind the process of debating” and citing online polls that show him having won prior debates.
Still, Trump’s AIPAC attendance isn’t being met wholly with open arms. His policy plans on illegal immigration and temporary Muslim bans, as well as the violence exhibited at his rallies by Trump supporters, have caused some in the Jewish community concern.
“The values of our Reform Jewish Movement include equality, diversity, justice, humility, and civility,” say Rabbis Rick Jacobs and Jonah Pesner.
“Thus far, Mr. Trump has conducted his campaign as if those are not his values.”
Prior to speaking at AIPAC, the GOP frontrunner will hold a press conference at a job site he frequently brags about on the trail: The Trump Hotel at the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue. When Trump regales supporters and reporters with tales of the project he reminds that it’s “under budget and ahead of schedule” — much like he’d like to see our country.
It’s also his fail safe to getting to Pennsylvania Avenue and a sign of his real estate prowess and ability to make a good deal even with the most unlikely of partners. “If I don’t make it to the White House, I’m still living on Pennsylvania Avenue,” Trump told a South Carolina crowd in mid-February — and repeated it many times thereafter.
While the Old Post Office stop has been billed as a “press availability and tour” of the facility, prior press avails have yielded no questions from press and instead just remarks from the candidate. Specifically at his last press conference at Mar A Lago on the night of second “Super Tuesday” voting, the press corps was placed 16 rows behind guests and supporters and not given the opportunity to ask questions after Trump had finished his remarks.
When asked why that was the case, Trump campaign manager Lewandowski told NBC News “we never said he was taking questions.”
However, at three prior gatherings, also billed as press conferences on election nights at various Trump properties around Florida, reporters were allowed to ask questions.