Trump huddles with DC Republicans, leadership absent

GOP White House hopeful Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSenate committee moving forward with Russia hacking probe Trump must re-engage Africa to halt Chinese inroads Voter fraud allegations reignite squabble MORE huddled with Washington, D.C., Republicans in the shadow of the Capitol on Monday, an attempt by the political newcomer to appear more presidential as he zeroes in on his party’s nomination.

“He kind of talked about his newness here. He’s new to D.C. That is kind of a big deal for someone who’s on the outside when it comes to politics,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a Trump supporter who attended the meeting at the Jones Day law firm offices on Capitol Hill.

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“This was a great beginning. I think you’re going to see more of this.”

Not a single member of House or Senate GOP leadership attended the two-hour confab, however. Most attendees, like Hunter, were backbencher lawmakers who have already endorsed Trump. They include GOP Reps. Tom Marino (Pa.), Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.), Renee Ellmers (N.C.) and Chris Collins (N.Y.).

Republican Sens. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsLawsuit filed to get information on Sessions Overnight Cybersecurity: Comey reportedly staying on at FBI | Court blocks DOJ appeal in Microsoft email case The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Ala.) and Tom CottonTom CottonMulvaney vows to give Trump straight talk on entitlements Live coverage: Trump budget chief faces two Senate panels The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Ark.) were on hand as well. Sessions has endorsed the real estate mogul, while Cotton has not backed a candidate.

Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), now president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, also attended, as did former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), a failed presidential candidate in 2012, and his wife, Callista.

The Gingriches were later swarmed by reporters and TV cameras. Asked by The Hill for his main takeaway from the meeting, Gingrich replied: “The lunch was pretty good.”

Trump did pick up one endorsement after the gathering. Former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), who resigned from Congress in 1999 over an extramarital affair and is now a lobbyist, said he voted for another unidentified candidate but now is going all in for Trump.

“I voted for somebody else, but I am really, really irritated by these people who think they are smarter than the American people,” said Livingston, referring to the “Never Trump” group of Republicans trying to deny the front-runner the nomination.

“The American people are expressing themselves loudly in just about every state and most of the primaries, and he’s getting most of the votes,” Livingston added. “For me, that’s very, very important. I want to see the people heard. I want to see Donald Trump president.”

Participants said Monday’s discussion ranged from national security and border issues to politics, but they declined to go into details. Violent incidents that have broken out at recent Trump rallies did not come up, they added.

Several supporters emerged from the meeting predicting that Trump will secure the requisite 1,237 delegates and wrap up the nomination before the Cleveland convention in mid-July.

“I think it’s likely that he will get the majority of the delegates,” DesJarlais told reporters. “It seems more fun in the media to talk about what would happen if he didn’t, but I think his pathway is getting clearer. It would be foolish to ignore that.”

If nothing else, the Jones Day confab gave Trump the opportunity to thank his few Capitol Hill supporters and generate some headlines on a slow Monday in the nation’s capital.

Trump’s motorcade exited the building from a side garage. The New York billionaire waved at a crowd of several dozen onlookers as he went by but didn’t address anyone. One protester held aloft a sign that read: “Trump is racist.”

Later Monday, Trump held a news conference at his new hotel at the Old Post Office Building near the White House. At that event, he predicted he’ll win the delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination.

“I think we will easily make that number of the 1,237,” Trump said.

The businessman also said he’ll release a list of seven to 10 potential choices for the Supreme Court to push back against concerns that he might not nominate a conservative — a charge made repeatedly by his main rival, Ted CruzTed CruzCruz shares 'proof' of basketball skills - with pic of Duke look-alike Cruz introduces bill letting states bar refugees Trump's America: Businessmen in, bureaucrats out MORE.

“Some people say maybe I’ll appoint a liberal judge. I won’t.”

The Heritage Foundation is helping to draft the list of potential court picks, Trump said. 

—Mike Lillis and Ben Kamisar contributed to this report, which was updated at 6:36 p.m.