Trump to Capitol for frank talk with anxious GOP

Trump to Capitol for frank talk with anxious GOP

Donald TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE will meet with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday morning in a last-ditch effort to unify a fractured GOP two weeks before the party’s national convention in Cleveland.

Trump’s back-to-back meetings — first with House Republicans at the Capitol Hill Club, then with Senate Republicans at their campaign headquarters — will take place amid growing anxiety among the GOP elite over whether the brash New York billionaire will be a drag on vulnerable down-ballot candidates this fall.

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“I look forward to having a frank exchange tomorrow,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to resume mask mandate after new CDC guidance Five takeaways from a bracing day of Jan. 6 testimony McCarthy, McConnell say they didn't watch Jan. 6 hearing MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters on Wednesday. “All of us are anxious to win the presidential election.”

Several GOP senators facing tough races said they would likely skip the Trump meeting, offering a plethora of excuses.

Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' Democrats seek to counter GOP attacks on gas prices Biden nominates Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey MORE (R-Ariz.) and 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 (R-N.H.) said they had to attend a committee meeting at the same time, while Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP lawmakers request Cuba meeting with Biden Bipartisan congressional commission urges IOC to postpone, relocate Beijing Games Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill to hold platforms accountable for misinformation during health crises | Website outages hit Olympics, Amazon and major banks MORE (R-Fla.), a onetime Trump presidential rival, said he had to preside over the upper chamber.

“But I’m obviously, of all the people in that room, other than Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump's Texas endorsement boosts a scandal-plagued incumbent while imperiling a political dynasty Trio of Senate Republicans urges Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade Overnight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia MORE, I’m quite familiar with his positions on a number of issues,” Rubio told reporters.

Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.), an outspoken Trump foe and top Democratic target this fall, said he had better things to do than meet with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

“Congressman Dold is focused on providing effective, independent leadership for the people he represents,” spokesman Brad Stewart said. “Meeting with Donald Trump will not help pass legislation to combat the opioid epidemic, provide funding for 10th District schools, or tackle the long list of other issues Illinois families face every day.”

The meetings could offer other awkward moments as well.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece MORE (R-Wis.), who’s hosting Trump on Thursday, has rebuked the candidate countless times this election cycle, most recently this week after Trump tweeted what Ryan called “anti-Semitic” images to his nearly 10 million followers.

McConnell has all but stopped answering questions about Trump at his weekly news conferences.

And Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.) took himself out of the running to be Trump’s vice president a day after attending a rally where Trump praised Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Freshman Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who met with Trump on Monday, told Politico she’s focused on her job as senator amid talk she’s being considered for Trump’s No. 2.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had endorsed Trump in May, but had a change of heart a month later, telling his local San Diego newspaper he wanted a “redo” of the entire GOP primary. On Wednesday, Issa appeared to have no desire to talk about Trump’s visit.

“I’m not even sure if I’m gonna be there. I’ve got a pretty full schedule,” Issa told The Hill.

Those who will attend have a laundry list of items they hope Trump will address.

Rep. Roger WilliamsJohn (Roger) Roger WilliamsGOP divided on anti-Biden midterm message The Hill's Morning Report - Bidens to visit Surfside, Fla., collapse site Trump, GOP return to border to rev up base MORE (R-Texas) wants Trump to talk more about “what he’s good at”: jobs, the economy and border security.

Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) said he’d like to hear Trump announce he’s nominating former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as his running mate, a move that would shore up concerns about his foreign policy chops.

And Rep. John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingLobbying world Trump wants Congress to delay Census deadlines amid pandemic Meadows sets up coronavirus hotline for members of Congress MORE (R-La.), a Senate candidate, said he hopes that Trump talks about how he’ll be “constitutional” in his approach to the presidency.

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), a Baptist minister, joked that he hopes to hear “contrition and humility” from the blustery businessman.

A big question is whether Trump will use the Thursday meeting to endorse “A Better Way,” Ryan’s election-year agenda that outlines conservative policy ideas on things like national security, tax reform and healthcare.

“I would love to hear Mr. Trump talk about the agenda that we put out in the House of Representatives ... and hopefully be in agreement with our agenda. That would be helpful,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), a Trump backer whose home state is playing host to the Republican National Convention beginning July 18.

“I know leadership, when they’ve met with him in the past, they’ve brought it to his attention and it got pretty positive feedback,” Wenstrup added. “The question is, will he just bring it up himself.”

Thursday will mark the first time Trump, a political newcomer and D.C. outsider, will meet with the full House and Senate GOP conferences since he won enough delegates to clinch the party’s nomination. After bruising primaries, it’s customary for candidates to huddle with lawmakers from their own party in a show of unity.

But true party unity has been elusive for Trump. Ryan, the nation’s top elected Republican and chairman of the GOP convention, initially said he wasn’t comfortable endorsing Trump, given his many controversial comments and positions. Ryan finally came around after he and his leadership team met with Trump in May at Republican National Committee offices, but the Speaker hasn’t hesitated to scold him for attacking a federal judge because of his ethnicity, praising Hussein or tweeting what was perceived as anti-Semitic images.

“I really believe he’s got to clean up how his new media works,” Ryan said after Trump tweeted and then deleted an image of Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote Women's March endorses Nina Turner in first-ever electoral endorsement MORE with what appeared to be a Star of David against the backdrop of $100 bills.

Others, however, see an opportunity for Republicans to come together before Cleveland.

House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who recently co-hosted a fundraiser for Trump in San Antonio, said he believes his colleagues will be impressed when they meet and hear directly from Trump.

“I met him, talked to him in person, heard him speak. He is much more personable and down to earth than often portrayed. He is also more substantive than often portrayed,” Smith told The Hill. “I expect to hear both about substantive issues and political issues.

“I expect him to make a good impression, and I expect us to be more united as a result.”

Jordain Carney and Julian Hattem contributed.