Trump vents frustration with GOP

Trump vents frustration with GOP
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Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Missouri Rep. Billy Long enters Senate GOP primary Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio special election MORE feels as though the Republican Party is dragging its feet in unifying behind his presidential candidacy and voiced frustration over it during a private meeting with senators Thursday.

Trump told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: Florida becomes epicenter of COVID-19 surge | NYC to require vaccination for indoor activities | Biden rebukes GOP governors for barring mask mandates McConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal Top House Democrat says party would lose elections if they were held today: report MORE (R-Ky.), who led the meeting at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters, that he’s “not feeling the love” from the leader, according to a lawmaker who attended.

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A second senator who was briefed on the exchange by a colleague confirmed that account. 

McConnell rarely refers to Trump by name in public comments, instead preferring to talk generically about the party’s presumptive nominee. Last week he said Trump needed to make changes to become a “credible” general election candidate.

Trump made the comment in a joking tone, but he also sent a clear message that he wants more support from the people who are supposed to be his allies on Capitol Hill.  

Earlier in the day, Trump met with House Republicans and urged them to appear upbeat with the media when talking about his candidacy and party unity.

The Washington Post reported Trump asked House lawmakers to “say great things” about him. 

Republican senators say the lack of party unity doesn’t stem from their unwillingness to get behind Trump, but instead from his failure to rein in his gratuitous insults and incendiary language.

The sore feelings were apparent in a tense exchange with Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots MORE (R-Ariz.). Trump told Flake, an outspoken critic, that the GOP needs to unify behind his candidacy. 

Flake told Trump that if Republicans rally around him, it wouldn’t be enough to beat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Shontel Brown wins Ohio Democratic primary in show of establishment strength READ: Cuomo's defense against sexual harassment investigation MORE because of his poor performance with independents, according to a lawmaker familiar with the conversation.

Flake said a majority of voters in Arizona are independent and Trump has no chance of winning them over if he continues to attack people of Mexican heritage as criminals and rapists, the source added.

Trump shot back that he’s leading Clinton, his likely Democratic opponent in the general election, by 6 points in Arizona and warned that he might begin attacking Flake publicly if the senator doesn’t tone down his criticism.

The skirmish between Trump and Flake was first reported by the Post.   

Trump also criticized Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission  Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls MORE (R-Ill.), who wasn’t present at the meeting, for withdrawing his endorsement last month, and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), another vocal critic. 

Sasse’s spokesman said his boss had a “gracious exchange” with Trump but still won’t endorse him.

“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,” said James Wegmann. 

Another Republican senator said Trump’s complaints about the lack of unity in the party lasted only three or four minutes during a meeting that spanned about an hour.

McConnell said that, overall, it was a productive session. 

“We had a good meeting. It was a good discussion. Very good attendance,” he told reporters.

McConnell’s spokesman, David Popp, said, “We are not providing any readouts today.”

Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet MORE (R-Texas), McConnell’s deputy, said Trump’s frustration with critical fellow Republicans was nothing to be alarmed about. 

“I know he’s not particularly happy with some of the criticism he’s received, but that’s fairly normal. But I actually thought there was some good exchange in our meeting between some of the people who have been critics [and Trump],” Cornyn said. 

“To me that’s the beginning of a conversation that will hopefully improve those relationships,” he added.

Only 32 Senate Republicans will attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland later this month, but many, including several in tough reelection races this year, want to keep their distance. 

One vulnerable Republican who is staying away from Cleveland, Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyottePoll: Potential Sununu-Hassan matchup in N.H. a dead heat  Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal Sununu seen as top recruit in GOP bid to reclaim Senate MORE (N.H.), says she supports Trump but will not endorse him. 

Flake has told reporters that he’ll skip the convention because he has to mow his lawn. 

Lawmakers hope that Thursday’s frank exchange between Trump and his critics will clear the air and quell dissension in the ranks. 

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump helps raise million in first six months of 2021 Senate passes bill to award Congressional Gold Medal to first Black NHL player Scott: 'There is hope' for police reform bill MORE (R-S.C.) told reporters that he urged Trump to focus on the economy instead of becoming bogged down in personal fights with critics.

“We talked about the necessity of moving forward in a positive and constructive manner,” he said.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderAuthorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Tenn.) said he was happy with Trump’s answer to his questions on national security and the economy.