Trump vents frustration with GOP

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Donald Trump 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 McConnell (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.

{mosads}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 Flake (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 Clinton 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 Kirk (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 Cornyn (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 Ayotte (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 Scott (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 Alexander (R-Tenn.) said he was happy with Trump’s answer to his questions on national security and the economy.  

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