Trump, Republican leaders hold peace talks

2016-05-12 17:01
Protesters gather outside of the RNC headquarters where Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan in Washington, DC. ( Mark Wilson, Getty Images AFP)

Protesters gather outside of the RNC headquarters where Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan in Washington, DC. ( Mark Wilson, Getty Images AFP)

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Washington - Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump headed into a high-stakes meeting Thursday with House speaker Paul Ryan and other party leaders to try to mend deep divisions opened by the billionaire's controversial White House campaign.

Chanting protesters greeted Trump as he arrived at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee in Washington, for a sit-down that may tell whether Trump goes into the November elections with the full support of his party.

Trump ignored the dozen or so protesters, who carried signs that read "Trump is a racist" and "RIP GOP," as he entered the building through a back door.

"Undocumented! Unafraid!" protesters shouted in defiance of Trump's vow to order mass deportations of illegal immigrants if elected.

Ryan, the top-ranked Republican currently elected to public office, triggered soul-searching within a fractured party with the bombshell announcement last week that he was "just not ready" to support Trump as the flag bearer.

The concerns have trickled down to many in the congressional rank and file who fear a Trump nomination could doom their efforts to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in November and hold the majority in the Senate and House of Representatives.

With the party divided, Trump and the Republican establishment aim to put differences aside ahead of what is expected to be a brutal campaign battle against Clinton.

"The goal here is to unify the various wings of the party around common principles," Ryan said Wednesday.

"After coming through a very bruising primary, which just ended like a week ago, to pretend we're unified without actually unifying, then we go into the fall at half strength."

Make a deal

Ryan, who at 46 is a generation younger than 69-year-old Trump, took up the speakership last October pledging to modernise the party's image and reach out to minority groups that traditionally vote Democratic.

But many GOP luminaries have watched aghast as the provocative New York real estate mogul Trump has insulted Mexicans, demeaned women and called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States in his quest for the party nomination.

Trump was looking for more than just a photo op on Thursday.

"I have a lot of respect for Paul and I think we're going to have a very good meeting," Trump told Fox News on Tuesday.

"If we make a deal, that will be great," he added later. "And if we don't, we will trudge forward like I've been doing and winning, you know, all the time."

Trump also meets Reince Priebus, the powerful chair of the Republican National Committee that helps co-ordinate financing for the party nominee's presidential campaign. Priebus has called for Republicans to unite behind Trump.

Later that morning, he meets with top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell and the chamber's other GOP leaders.

While many upper echelon party figures including 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and the two Bush presidents are opposed to Trump, there were signs Wednesday of a growing move to unite behind Trump.

The chair of seven House committees endorsed the tycoon, saying in a statement Trump posted on his Facebook page that "it is paramount that we coalesce around the Republican nominee... and maintain control of both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate".

Anti-Trump die-hards

On Tuesday, Republican Senator James Inhofe criticized Ryan's statements, saying Trump "is the nominee, he's going to be working together and have to establish a workable relationship, and I think they will."

"But that's not a good way to start," he added.

A handful of pro-Trump House Republicans met with Ryan on Wednesday to urge him to back the billionaire.

Although some Republicans called for a genuine conservative candidate to challenge Trump and Clinton in November, that prospect has dimmed.

"Most of my members believe he's won the nomination the old-fashioned way," said McConnell, who after months of expressing concern about how a Trump nomination might affect Republican efforts to hold the Senate, has expressed support for him.

"We know that Hillary Clinton will be four more years of Barack Obama. I think that's going to, in the end, be enough to unify Republicans across the country."

Some anti-Trump die-hards, including Senator Lindsey Graham, argue that Republicans in tough re-election fights would fare better if they separate themselves from The Donald.

But others have downplayed the crisis, saying there was plenty of time for Trump to flesh out his policy positions and develop a more presidential bearing.

"Things have a way in politics and government of working themselves out," Senator Chuck Grassley told reporters. He was elected to the Senate in 1980 when Hollywood film icon Ronald Reagan became the party's presidential nominee.

"Remember, everybody thought Reagan was going to take us down to defeat."

Read more on:    gop  |  paul ryan  |  donald trump  |  reince priebus  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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