Trump meets with RNC in Washington – Politico

Donald Trump waves as he gets into his vehicle in Washington on Thursday, following a meeting with the Republican National Committee.

Donald Trump waves as he gets into his vehicle in Washington on Thursday, following a meeting with the Republican National Committee. | AP Photo

After two days of wild statements, the real estate mogul meets with Republican leaders and his foreign policy team during a trip to the nation’s capital.

03/31/16 08:38 AM EDT

Updated 03/31/16 03:10 PM EDT

Donald Trump met on Thursday with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus during his trip to Washington, just two days after he disavowed his pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee.

The real estate mogul has had a fraught relationship with the RNC, openly flirting at times with a third-party bid and often complaining about mistreatment from the Republican Party in general and the RNC in particular. The RNC has publicly stated that it would back Trump if he clinches the nomination, but has also said it is preparing for the possibility of a contested convention.

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Trump was seen entering the RNC’s Capitol Hill building through a backdoor entrance shortly after 2 p.m. ET. The meeting lasted about 50 minutes as a crowd of reporters and gawkers swelled to more than 100. Trump gave a broad wave and a thumbs up to the crowd before his motorcade sped away.

Trump’s visit to the RNC came as he swung back into presidential mode on Thursday, also convening a meeting in Washington with members of his newly established foreign policy team and rolling out his U.S. House Leadership Committee as the real estate mogul tries to build a more sturdy campaign.

Those close to Trump say, despite appearances to the contrary, he’s interested in unifying the party around him and reaching out to key GOP figures. His advisers remain optimistic that Trump will win the 1,237 delegates needed for the Republican nomination, but say he’s eager to coalesce the party — including those who’ve been reluctant to embrace him.

Trump himself expressed a desire for unity, tweeting on Thursday afternoon, “Just had a very nice meeting with @Reince Priebus and the @GOP. Looking forward to bringing the Party together — and it will happen!”

The RNC was tight-lipped about the meeting, with top officials there declining to discuss the huddle between Trump and Priebus. One party official said the fourth floor of the RNC building, which houses Priebus’s office, had been shut down by security shortly before Trump’s arrival.

Trump’s volatility has been on full display over the past two days as he verbally attacked a reporter who accused his campaign manager of battery, disavowed the GOP loyalty oath, bemoaned the Geneva Conventions, and suggested that women should be punished for abortions if they become outlawed – before quickly reversing himself.

The fallout threatened to unravel the limited headway he appeared to be making after Super Tuesday, as it became clearer that Trump was marching toward the nomination. Trump’s spin through Washington earlier this month showed flashes of a more evolved candidate, as he delivered a commanding speech before AIPAC and huddled with lawmakers at the law firm of his election lawyer.

Trump’s campaign announced on Thursday that two of those lawmakers — Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins — will be co-chairs of his House Leadership Committee and will spearhead outreach to their colleagues on Trump’s behalf.

“Congressman Hunter and Congressman Collins are conservative stalwarts. I am honored to have the support of these two well respected Members of Congress who share my vision of securing our borders, strengthening our military, treating our veterans with the respect and care they deserve and putting Americans first again,” Trump said in a statement.

The outreach has been a continuous process, Hunter’s chief of staff Joe Kasper told POLITICO in a telephone interview Thursday, characterizing Thursday’s announcement as an “official stamp” on the efforts.

“A lot of the committee’s focus is going to be ironed out in the next few days with far more specificity,” Kasper.

Hunter’s chief of staff will meet with Trump representatives next week; Collins’ office did not immediately respond to requests for comment seeking confirmation of its plans. Hunter and Collins were the first two members of Congress to formally endorse Trump’s bid on Feb. 24.

Trump’s statement also said he is holding meetings today in the nation’s capital, but did not provide more details. However, people familiar with his schedule said one of the meetings would be with his foreign policy advisers.

Trump for months had declined to name his advisers, and has said that he largely relies on himself when it comes to matters of national security and international relations.

“I know what I’m doing and I listen to a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people and at the appropriate time I’ll tell you who the people are,” Trump said earlier this month. “But my primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff.”

A week later, he rattled off the names of five men who are sources of regular advice on national security: Walid Phares, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Joe Schmitz, and Gen. Keith Kellogg.

The list, however, provided little reassurance to those concerned about Trump’s readiness to become commander in chief, as many of his named advisers are either unknowns or have mixed reputations among GOP national security pros.

He set off fresh alarm bells on Wednesday when he lamented the existence of the Geneva Conventions. “The problem is we have the Geneva Conventions, all sorts of rules and regulations, so the soldiers are afraid to fight,” Trump said at an afternoon town hall as he talked about his approach to torture.

The remark on international rules of war was just one of many eyebrow-raising statements that have created a streak of negative headlines for the New York businessman and have freshly called into question his ability to unify the GOP behind him.

On Wednesday he drew considerable fire from both the left and the right when he stated in a TV interview that women who get abortions should be punished if the procedure becomes outlawed.

In a rare move, Trump reversed himself, with his campaign sending out two clarifying statements about his views on abortion.

“If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed – like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions,” the latter statement read.

Kasper, Hunter’s chief of staff, acknowledged that Trump’s recent stumble on abortion represents a “learning curve” and that his “articulation on certain issues sometimes is something that needs a little work.” But he also said that Trump is not a professional politician, suggesting that his supporters are not necessarily paying attention to places like MSNBC, where the candidate made the remarks in a town hall event to Chris Matthews aired Wednesday night.

Those comments, and others, Kasper predicted, will not hurt Trump in the long run. Trump’s biggest obstacle going forward is likely the media and its propensity to misinterpret the candidate’s statements, “because everything is radioactive,” Kasper said.

Trump’s detour to Washington from the campaign trail came after he spent the first part of the week blitzing through Wisconsin, which holds its primary on Tuesday. Trump, who has upped his delegate game as he tries to close in on the 1,237 figure needed to clinch the nomination outright, is trailing Ted Cruz by 10 points in Wisconsin, according to a poll released on Wednesday.

But there’s hefty skepticism that Trump can carry the party with him. A separate poll out Thursday found that just 38 percent of Republican voters said Trump would be able to get the party to “unite solidly” behind him if he becomes the GOP nominee.

Nick Gass and Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

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