Trump Makes Conciliatory Moves Toward Establishment Republicans

  • Republican front-runner: I had 'smart' talk with Speaker Ryan
  • Trump acknowledges differences but sees room to negotiate

Is Trump Losing Control of His Brand?

Donald Trump is quietly making overtures to a Republican Party establishment that remains deeply leery of his insurgent presidential campaign. 

Coming off a night where he won three of four Republican election contests, Trump said Wednesday that he had a "smart" and "conciliatory" discussion this week with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and he believes the two have respect for each other. 

"We get along well. I like him a lot. I respect him a lot," Trump said of Ryan, during an appearance on CNN. "I think he respects me. I think he really does respect what I’ve done."

Ryan, whose staff acknowledged the telephone call earlier this week, has tried to remain aloof from the nomination battle, but the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee has indirectly criticized Trump twice in the past few months.

Until now, most Republicans in Congress have remained deeply skeptical, even alarmed, by the prospect of Trump as their party’s nominee. Trump’s controversial statements about banning Muslims from the U.S. and his slowness in disavowing the support of white supremacists have particularly troubled Republican senators and House members running for re-election this year.

’Just Fine’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he hadn’t yet spoken with Trump, but that the candidate’s conversation with Ryan was appropriate.

"That’s just fine that he’s done that," McConnell said. "I think what the speaker is trying to do by developing a platform, something we’re in discussion with him, the agenda, is a good idea. And I’m glad.”

Ryan has said that he wants to use the House this year to chart a course for conservative policies that could be implemented under a Republican president.

Some Differences

Trump, however, frequently breaks from Republican positions in his rhetoric, which has sowed doubts about how likely he would be to defer to a Republican-led Congress.

Trump, who won contests in Michigan, Mississippi and Hawaii on Tuesday, acknowledged that differences remain with Ryan and many congressional Republicans on some issues.

He was asked in an interview Tuesday on MSNBC how far he’d embrace the House Republican agenda, including Ryan’s push on alleviating poverty and overhauling Social Security and Medicare.

Trump asserted at least some of the differences can be negotiated.

"Well, I’d be talking to him," Trump said of Ryan.

"Again, I don’t agree with them on all of these things and I certainly don’t agree on the border because I’m much stronger on the border than they are and they have a different -- well, they have a different feeling as to what should take place on the border," said Trump.

Negotiating Room

The billionaire noted that Republican rival Senator Ted Cruz has tried to make an issue of Trump’s willingness to negotiate on issues -- which he said should be regarded as a positive attribute, not a negative one.

"Let me tell you, that’s what you’re supposed to do,” Trump said. “You’re supposed to gather people around and make great deals.”

"I want to make great deals for my side of the equation. But otherwise you’re just going to have a stagnant country like you do right now. You have no negotiation. You have Washington is in total gridlock," he said.

"So I will," said Trump.

Trump downplayed on CNN his comment last week that Ryan’s "going to have to pay a big price" if he didn’t do what Trump wants. He said he didn’t mean that "as a threat."

"We should be talking and unifying," said Trump, noting all the new voters his campaign has drawn to the party.

Senate Bystanders

Republican senators remain largely unswayed by Trump.

South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham has said he even preferred Cruz to Trump as someone who can be trusted on the Supreme Court and other issues, although Graham and other Republicans still say they intend to support whoever becomes the nominee.

So far no Republican senators have joined Senator Ben Sasse in saying they would never vote for Trump.

Trump’s lone Senate endorser, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, continued to stand by him this week despite flaps over Trump’s hiring of immigrant labor and support for some high-skilled immigration.

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