Briefings

Trump and Priebus Hold Talks, But Don’t Discuss Loyalty Pledge

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on March 30, 2016, in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Donald Trump met with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in Washington on Thursday, but the two didn’t discuss the GOP front-runner’s problems with a pledge to support the party’s eventual nominee.

In a message on Twitter, Trump said the meeting at RNC headquarters was “very nice.” “Looking forward to bringing the Party together—and it will happen!” Trump added. 

There was no mention of the recent controversies that have surrounded Trump's campaign, according to a person who attended the meeting.

“They talked about how to best unify the party when the time comes for that,” the person said, adding that they also discussed delegate rules. “If you did not know any better, you would've thought Trump and Priebus liked each other.”

The meeting lasted about 30 minutes, and Trump attended with campaign counsel Donald F. McGahn of Jones Day and other advisors, the person said. 

The RNC portrayed the meeting as routine.

“The Chairman and Mr. Trump had a productive conversation about the state of the race. The Chairman is in constant communication with all of the candidates and their campaigns about the primaries, general election, and the convention. Meeting and phone conversations with candidates and their campaigns are common and will increase as we get closer to November,” RNC spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement.

The gathering was scheduled with an agenda to discuss party operations, and to brief Trump on plans for the Republican National Convention in July, said a Republican with knowledge of the meeting. That person, who requested anonymity to speak about the private huddle, said the goal was to bring Trump—who is seeking his first elected office—up to speed on the party's data operations to target voters, ground troops in states to push voters to the polls, and the financial infrastructure that pays for it all.

According to another person with knowledge of Trump's schedule, the candidate was also slated to meet with Paul Manafort while he was in Washington. Trump announced earlier this week that he had hired Manafort to lead his delegate strategy for a potentially contested Republican convention. Manafort was not at the meeting with Priebus.

The RNC also unveiled a new website Thursday to help explain the rules for a contested convention, a signal of how heated the party expects the battle could get.

“An open convention only occurs if a candidate fails to secure a majority of bound delegates during the primary and caucus process and is unable to win enough unbound delegates to obtain 1,237 delegate votes,” the RNC said on the site. “If that is the case, we will have an open and transparent convention where delegates—empowered and selected by the grassroots—will elect the nominee for our Party.”

The RNC meeting with Trump took place days after a CNN town hall during which the billionaire, John Kasich, and Ted Cruz made clear they had decided to back away from a loyalty pledge that Priebus asked Republican candidates to sign in September. The goal of the pledge was to prevent third-party runs and to guarantee the party’s presidential nominee would receive the support of all candidates.

The meeting came during a tumultuous stretch for Trump, whose campaign manager was recently charged with misdemeanor battery against a journalist. The candidate set off a firestorm Wednesday when he said if abortion were outlawed, women who had the procedure should be punished. He later reversed, saying it was doctors who would deserve penalties.

Backtracking on the pledge on Tuesday, Cruz and Kasich suggested Trump was unfit for the nomination, while the billionaire implied the party had not held up its end of the deal. “I have been treated very unfairly,” he said.

Trump next faces his rivals on the ballot in Wisconsin, Priebus’ home state, on April 5. Trump trails Cruz there by 10 percentage points, according to a Marquette Law School poll this week.

Trump is leading in the race to collect delegates, but it’s unclear if he can reach the 1,237-delegate majority threshold to win the nomination outright. A contested convention would be the party’s first since 1976.

—With assistance from Sahil Kapur.

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