WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Straining to mend their party after months of chaos, Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan declared themselves “totally committed” to working together after a fence-mending personal meeting on Thursday. Ryan praised Trump as “very warm and genuine,” and suggested that after initial hesitance he may well end up endorsing the GOP candidate for president.
The presumptive GOP nominee and the party’s top elected official said in a statement after their meeting at party headquarters on Capitol Hill that they are “totally committed to working together” to achieve that goal.
“While we were honest about our few differences, we recognize that there are also many important areas of common ground,” Trump and Ryan said in the statement, adding that they “remain confident there’s a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall.”
More discussions are promised, but they described this first one as “a very positive step toward unification.”
Ryan has yet to come out in support of Trump and offer a full-fledged endorsement, but the two say it’s critical for Republicans to be united around “our shared principles.”
“We will have policy disputes. There is no two ways about that. The question is, can we unify on the common core principles that make our party,” Ryan said. “And I’m very encouraged that the answer to that question is yes.”
Ryan added, “I think this is going in a positive direction and I think this is a first very encouraging meeting, but in 45 minutes you don’t litigate all of the issues and the principles we are talking about.”
Trump, who used the day to launch a robust charm offensive with members of Congress, broadcast his own enthusiasm over Twitter, saying: “Great day in D.C. with (at)SpeakerRyan and Republican leadership. Things working out really well! (hash)Trump2016.”
CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported from Capitol Hill that Trump came to Washington to convince skeptic Republicans that he can win the presidential election and that he won’t hurt other Republicans running for House and Senate seats.
Trump has sharp differences with many Republicans on Medicaid and trade policy, but he needs the GOP machine to help raise the estimated $1 billion he needs to run in the general election.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus also said the meeting with Trump and Ryan was “a very positive step toward party unity.”
Trump and Ryan’s meeting came a week after Ryan stunned Republicans by refusing to back the mercurial billionaire for president, who effectively clinched the nomination last week.
“I think we’re off to an encouraging start. It is important that we get ourselves to full strength so we can win in the Fall because the stakes could not be higher,” Ryan said at a press conference following the meeting. “But it takes more than 45 minutes.”
As the meeting took place at the Republican National Committee offices, a smattering of protesters gathered outside.
Some demonstrators carried signs that say “R.I.P. GOP” and used a megaphone to express their views that Trump’s rise means the fall of the Republican Party. One chant was: “Down with deportation, up with liberation”
Demonstrators included those opposed to Trump’s plans to deport undocumented immigrants, CBS2’s Weija Jiang reported.
“We’re here trying to give them something that represents our communities, and they’ve closed their doors,” one protester said.
GOP lawmakers are increasingly calling for the party to end its embarrassing bout of infighting and unite to beat likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in November, and many want to see Ryan get on board.
Following his meeting Ryan, Trump then he sat down with other members of the House Republican leadership, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise.
Trump also met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his top deputies, and senators were later full of praise and offers of help.
Sen. John Cornyn said he invited Trump to come to Texas and offered to help him with Latino voters.
“I was fortunate enough to win the Hispanic vote in 2014. I said I’d be glad to share with you my experience and observations because that’s an important part of the voters in 2016,” Cornyn said.
“I’ve always been impressed but I was really impressed today,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, adding they discussed the Supreme Court, an important issue for conservatives who’ve questioned whether they can trust Trump to appoint judges who would ratify their philosophy.
Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has called Trump a “nut job” and a “loser as a person,” softened his stance after speaking with the candidate by telephone Wednesday.
Graham, R-S.C., described the billionaire as funny, cordial and said he asked insightful questions about national security.
“He’s from New York. He obviously can take a punch,” said Graham, who waged his own unsuccessful bid for his party’s nomination. He said he still won’t endorse Trump but his barrage of “insults will stop.”
Democrats held a press conference to point out that Trump has very high negatives, in some polls as much as 70 percent.
“Remember, only 10 percent of the American electorate voted in the Republican primary and when the rest of the electorate rejects you, you’re not doing well,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said.
Trump is under a lot of pressure to release his tax returns from both Democrats and Republicans. Former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney want Trump to put his financial house in order.
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