Following a conversation with Donald Trump’s chief strategist on Thursday, House Republicans supporting the business mogul said they are resolved to put the firestorm over his attacks on a Latino judge behind them and are now engaged in Trump’s attempt to “pivot” to the general election.
“Today’s meeting was a little bit of a, use the word pivot — basically towards strategy,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.).
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) described the tone of the conversation similarly.
“It was just a good, quick, touch base – keeping everybody moving the same direction, making certain that as they’ve hit the pivot now, with Hillary [Clinton] having her votes, that we’re moving toward a general election,” she said.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump booster who said he happened to be in the building, popped in on the meeting. Afterward, Gingrich, who was highly critical of Trump’s attacks against U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, said he is now satisfied with the way Trump sought to move past the controversy.
“No, I think it’s fine,” Gingrich responded when a reporter asked if Trump needed to do more to repair the damage caused by his comments. “I think he has to continue what he did Tuesday night with the specific speeches aimed at big topics drawing a clear distinction between where he is and where Hillary is.”
Other Republicans in Congress and across the country have been less satisfied with Trump’s attempt to clarify his remarks. Asked by a reporter whether there are lingering concerns within the House GOP Conference and whether they were raised in the meeting, Blackburn responded: “There’s discussion about making certain that we keep focused on the ultimate goal which is to win this election in November.”
Collins said the Republicans in the meeting “didn’t ask for assurances” that Trump would not make a future remark like the ones he made about Curiel.
“Donald Trump has turned the page. So have we. We’re going to be talking about policy,” he said.
Thursday’s meeting was a regularly scheduled weekly update House Republicans receive from campaign officials while the House is in sessions. In addition to Manafort, Rick Dearborn, a veteran of the office Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), also took part, according to a person familiar with the gathering.
Trump issued a statement Tuesday saying his comments about Curiel were “misconstrued” and he no longer intends to talk about him or the lawsuits against Trump University that the judge is overseeing. Trump had previously said the judge’s Mexican heritage presented a conflict given his desire to build a wall on the border with Mexico. Curiel was born in Indiana to parents who emigrated from Mexico.
Hours after his statement, Trump gave a speech to mark the end of the primary season that departed in its delivery from his usual freewheeling style. He read off teleprompters and kept the focus of his remarks squarely on defeating Clinton.
Collins said he expects Trump to show that side of himself more often.
“The structure you’ve seen I do believe will be the structure moving forward,” he said.