Donald Trump Visits Members Of Congress Ahead Of GOP Convention

Jul 7, 2016
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Donald Trump often says he doesn't need the support of Republican leaders to win the election, but with less than two weeks before the Republican National Convention, the presumptive nominee might want to get more of them on board.

In a moment we'll hear from a Republican governor who had been a trump skeptic. First we're going to Capitol Hill where Trump spent the day meeting with GOP members of Congress behind closed doors. NPR's Sarah McCammon reports.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: The day began with a wave from Donald Trump through the window of a black SUV as his motorcade pulled into the Republican National Committee headquarters. Around the corner, several protesters chanted anti-Trump slogans.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #1: (Chanting) Dump Donald Trump. Dump Donald Trump.

MCCAMMON: Inside, Trump met privately with House Republicans. At a press conference later, House Speaker Paul Ryan called it a great meeting where rank and file members had a rare opportunity to engage with Trump.

PAUL RYAN: So I thought it was great that he came. I'm glad he accepted our invitation, and we had a very good exchange on just lots of ideas and lots of policy issues.

MCCAMMON: But it wasn't all rave reviews for Trump. On his way out of the meeting, South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford, who endorsed Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the primary, said he still has concerns about Trump's tone. Sanford said not much new information about the candidate was revealed.

MARK SANFORD: No, I mean, you know, there was a monologue for about 20 minutes and then after that, you know, sort of fairly general questions, nothing particularly probing.

MCCAMMON: About two hours later, Trump's motorcade brought him a few minutes across Capitol Hill for another closed-door meeting, this time with members of the U.S. Senate...

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #2: (Chanting) Cotton, party of Trump, Cotton, party of Trump.

MCCAMMON: ...Where again he was greeted by a handful of protesters. They called out specific senators by name like Tom Cotton. The senator from Arkansas is believed to be on Trump's short list for vice president, though Cotton told CBS yesterday that he's not being vetted.

Afterward, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, a Trump supporter who has campaigned with the real estate developer, said senators were impressed with Trump's command of the issues.

JEFF SESSIONS: No question that was raised he didn't have background data or an understanding of and able to discuss it in a high level. So a lot of people think it's just a bombastic campaign, but he understands this country.

MCCAMMON: Several senators who attended still have not endorsed Trump, among them Arizona Senator Jeff Flake who, according to multiple reports, called Trump out for some of his controversial rhetoric. Trump also met privately with Ted Cruz.

By the end of the Republican primary, the battle between the two had become a bloodbath. In a statement today, a Cruz spokeswoman said there was no talk of an endorsement, but Cruz accepted an invitation from Trump to speak at the convention.

Trump left the meeting flanked by police with another wave from the motorcade as reporters and a few curious passersby looked on.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Was he waving?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Yes.

MCCAMMON: In a tweet on his way out of town today, Trump said he had great meetings with House and Senate Republicans and added, these are people who love our country. As he heads into the convention, Trump's challenge is to persuade more elected officials in the party to love him or at least fall in line. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.