Senate Republicans ask Trump to soften his tone

Senate Republicans ask Trump to soften his tone
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans told Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Saudi Arabia paid 0 million for cost of US troops in area Parnas claims ex-Trump attorney visited him in jail, asked him to sacrifice himself for president MORE at Thursday’s private meeting that he needs to soften his tone ahead of the general election.

The presidential hopeful's combative style revs up his supporters but also turns off many voters, especially women, Republicans believe.


Trump acknowledged their worries and explained that the thousands of people who attend his rallies expect him to be fired up and not to stick to the scripted lines of a conventional politician.

In raising the concerns, Senate GOP leaders took pains to do so very politely so as not to put their party’s presumptive nominee on the defensive, according to sources familiar with the hour-long meeting that took place Thursday at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPoll shows Collins displaces McConnell as most unpopular senator Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti on impeachment: 'CNN can see through this nonsense' Trump says impeachment trial should move 'very quickly' MORE (R-Ky.) later praised it as a “very good, constructive meeting.”

McConnell and his caucus have more than the presidential election at stake with Trump. They think their fragile Senate majority is also in the balance.

Some Republicans worry that Trump’s pugilistic style, while popular with a segment of the electorate, may turn off some swing voters.

Senators attending the meeting said they saw a different side of Trump on Thursday.

“He was personable and listened, which is something I think is very important,” said Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynKoch network could target almost 200 races in 2020, official says Seven things to know about the Trump trial New Parnas evidence escalates impeachment witnesses fight MORE (R-Texas). 

Aside from the sober talk on the tone of the campaign, one lawmaker described the meeting as “convivial.”

Trump tweeted that he had a “great meeting with @SenateMajLdr Mitch McConnell and Republican leaders in D.C.” and posted a picture of himself listening to McConnell intently at the NRSC.

Cornyn also tweeted a picture of himself standing next to Trump, who is flashing a big grin and a thumbs-up sign. 

The second-ranking Senate Republican said the issue of tone was raised during the meeting, and that Trump signaled he wanted to help GOP senators in their own elections.

“He recognized the impact of the presidential candidate on down-ballot races, and said he looked forward to being helpful where he could,” Cornyn said.

Cornyn also suggested that Trump was open to the fact that some Republicans might have to run away from him to win their states.

Republicans are defending 24 seats in 2016, many of them in states won by President Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections.

“He also understands that in some places people may choose to run independently of him,” Cornyn said.

After the meeting, Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntRoberts sworn in to preside over Trump impeachment trial Senate opens Trump impeachment trial Seven things to know about the Trump trial MORE (R), who is running against a highly touted Democratic candidate this fall, released a statement that said he had “reminded” Trump of the need to adapt his tone.

“Sen. Blunt joined the Senate Republican leadership for today’s meeting with Donald Trump and reminded him that tone and language matter in our efforts to defeat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFormer Vermont Governor: Sanders 'will play dirty' NYT: Justice investigating alleged Comey leak of years-old classified info New Hampshire state lawmaker switches support from Warren to Klobuchar MORE in November,” Blunt’s office said in a statement.

“Sen. Blunt urged Donald Trump to unite Americans in this effort in a way that reminds all of us of our common goals,” the statement added. 

Overall, however, the public displays by Trump and GOP senators were about sending the signal that they are all on the same page.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDemocratic group plans mobile billboard targeting Collins on impeachment Paul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump Roberts sworn in to preside over Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-S.C.), perhaps the toughest GOP critic of Trump in the Senate, even had a phone discussion with the real estate mogul about foreign policy. Graham did not endorse Trump or even move toward saying he would vote for him, but he did say Trump had asked good questions on the call.

Polls show a large majority of Hispanic voters have an unfavorable view of Trump, and Republicans worry that could cost their nominee in the fall.

On this topic, Cornyn said he offered to help.

“I was fortunate enough to win the Hispanic vote in 2014. I said I would be glad to show with you my experience and observations,” he said.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals MORE (R-Utah), the chamber’s president pro tempore — the most senior member of the majority party — told reporters after meeting with Trump, “I totally endorse him.”

The lawmakers also discussed ObamaCare, regulatory reform and religious freedom at the meeting, top topics of Republicans running for reelection.

Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoGreen groups raise alarms about alleged Pentagon incineration of 'forever chemicals' House passes sweeping bill to target spread of toxic 'forever chemicals' Democrats, greens blast Trump rollback of major environmental law MORE (Wyo.), the only doctor in the GOP leadership, raised the impact of ObamaCare on insurance premiums.

Insurance companies have begun to submit requests to the Obama administration to hike premiums, a potentially explosive issue in the upcoming election.

Trump responded without missing a beat that he was closely following the issue and predicted the administration would attempt to postpone those increases until after the election.   

Trump met with 11 Senate Republicans, including every member of the elected leadership: McConnell, Cornyn, Barrasso, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate to vote on Trump's Canada, Mexico trade deal Thursday Senate braces for Trump impeachment trial Republicans face internal brawl over impeachment witnesses MORE (S.D.), the Senate Republican Conference chairman, Blunt, the conference vice chairman, and Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerLawmakers introduce bill to bolster artificial intelligence, quantum computing Enes Kanter sees political stardom — after NBA and WWE Hillicon Valley: House panel unveils draft of privacy bill | Senate committee approves bill to sanction Russia | Dems ask HUD to review use of facial recognition | Uber settles sexual harassment charges for .4M MORE (Miss.), the NRSC chairman.

Other attendees included Hatch, Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsICE subpoenas Denver law enforcement: report Bottom Line DOJ inquiry tied to Clinton, touted by Trump winds down with no tangible results: report MORE (R-Ala.), the first senator to have endorsed Trump, and Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenate approves Trump trade deal with Canada, Mexico Republicans brush off Trump's call for impeachment dismissal GOP leadership: There aren't 51 votes to dismiss Trump articles of impeachment MORE (R-Ohio), Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerThe Hill's Morning Report — Impeachment unknowns await returning lawmakers Pressure builds over impeachment impasse in Senate Trump faces pivotal year with Russia on arms control MORE (R-Neb.) and Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoDemocrat Richard Ojeda announces Senate bid after dropping out of presidential race Spending bill to address miners' health care, pensions Manchin warns he'll slow-walk government funding bill until he gets deal on miners legislation MORE (R-W.Va.), who serve as counsels to McConnell.