Trump clashes with GOP senator at meeting

Trump clashes with GOP senator at meeting

A meeting between the Senate GOP caucus and Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic On The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns Lack of transatlantic cooperation on trade threatens global climate change goals MORE boiled over Thursday during a tense exchange between 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 and the presumptive presidential nominee. 

Flake, a frequent critic of the businessman, used the closed-door sit-down to voice his concerns about Trump, including his stance on immigration and controversial rhetoric. 
 
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A senator in the room confirmed the frank exchange, which was first reported by The Washington Post. 
 
"Yes, I’m the other senator from Arizona — the one who didn’t get captured — and I want to talk to you about statements like that,” Flake said to Trump, according to the Post. 
 
Trump ruffled feathers last year when he mocked Flake's Arizona colleague, Republican Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain to produce 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' MORE, who was a prisoner during the Vietnam War. McCain was at an Armed Services Committee hearing at the time of the meeting.
 
"I don't think that we can be dismissive of that kind of statement," Flake told NBC News, referring to Trump's McCain comments. "That's just wrong and so I thought that he needed to hear it from maybe the other senator from Arizona." 
 
Trump warned that Flake would lose reelection, even though he isn't on the ballot again until 2018. 
 
The Flake-Trump rhetorical battle came as Trump tried to preach unity during his first meeting with the GOP caucus, weeks away from the party's national convention in Cleveland. 
 
Flake sidestepped commenting on the incident but told reporters that his skepticism of Trump remains unchanged.
 
"My position remains I want to support the nominee, I really do. I just can't support him given the things he's said," he told reporters after the meeting. 
 
Some of Flake's GOP colleagues tried to downplay the incident, stressing that most of the meeting with Trump was cordial. 
 
Asked if Trump told Flake he would lose, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said: "I think that's the wrong interpretation of what was said."
 
"I think the message a lot of folks up here are trying to send is we want to be supporting you, but we find ourselves on the defense. We want to be supporters, not defenders," he added. 
 
 
Trump also used the meeting to take aim at GOP Sens. 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 (Ill.), who wasn't in attendance, and Ben Sasse (Neb.), according to the Post. 
 
A spokesman for Sasse said the two had a "gracious exchange." 
 
"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," he said. 
 
Kirk, asked about reports that Trump called him a loser, fired back that "he's wrong. I've never been defeated."

Trump’s meeting with House Republicans earlier in the day didn’t seem to change many minds, but it was remarkably tamer and more subdued than his meeting with senators. 

Several House Republicans said they were “impressed” by the candidate, who presented himself with less bluster than he typically displays during TV interviews or campaign rallies. Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) called Trump’s talk a “great unifying speech.”

Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksOn The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Arizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems MORE (Ariz.), a former Mike Huckabee backer who now supports the presumptive nominee, said the private side of Trump is much less boisterous — and much more persuasive — than Trump's public face.

Franks said he was "deeply impressed with his demeanor … and the substance of what he said."

"He expresses himself privately in a way that allays a lot of concerns people might have with any public comments," he said.

But Trump skeptics in the GOP conference said they weren’t persuaded by his visit.

“I think he spoke in a little bit more measured manner today. He didn’t get all the shtick and hype you usually see out there on the trail,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (Pa.) after the meeting at the Capitol Hill Club. 

Even so, Dent said he remains concerned about Trump's lack of policy specifics and self-inflicted controversies.

"It seems that every time I say that I’m concerned about incendiary comments, more continue to flow," added Dent, co-chair of the centrist Tuesday Group.

Alexander Bolton, Cristina Marcos, Mike Lillis and Scott Wong contributed.
 
Updated at 3:41 p.m.