Donald Trump asked House Republicans Thursday to only “say great things” about him in an effort to project a unified front in the presidential election.
Republican members of Congress repeatedly pressed Trump during their hour-long closed-door meeting to reassure them he would work with them constructively and respect their agenda if elected. Trump promised that he would and also repeatedly urged them to exit the meeting and tell the media outside that everything was perfect inside the Republican Party.
“It would great if you could say we had an unbelievable meeting. ‘Trump loves us. We love Trump.’ It’s going to be so good. Okay?” Trump said, according to a detailed account from a person who attended the meeting. “Honestly, if we could say it is great, we have a unified party, I’ll tell you what, you are going to see a difference immediately. That’s what I’m going to say.”
Trump told the Republican lawmakers he loved them all and that they agreed on 99 percent of the issues. Trump said he assured House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) that he would never let him down. He then repeated his call for the members of Congress to praise him and project unity, even if they still had lingering reservations about him as their candidate.
“If when we leave we could just go out and say, ‘We love Trump, he’s going to be great.’ I love you, we’re doing great. As a team, we can’t be beaten,” Trump said. “Say great things, because anything you say that’s even a little — well you know, they magnify it. Just say it’s great. You gotta say great things. Any little negativity that you have, they are going to blow it up twentyfold. You’ve got to be positive.”
The meeting was not entirely smooth. Trump appeared not to be familiar with Article 1 of the Constitution, which specifies the powers given to Congress. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) asked Trump what his understanding was of Article 1, given congressional concerns about the balance of power.
“I am a constitutionalist. I am going to abide by the Constitution whether it’s number 1, number 2, number 12, number 9,” Trump responded. “I am a constitutionalist. I’m going to abide by the Constitution . . . It’s so important, and we’re getting away from it. And let me tell you, we have gotten so far away from it, we’re not going to have a country anymore.”
The Constitution has only seven articles. Trump did not speak about Article 1 specifically.
Nevertheless, most House Republicans emerging from the meeting seemed to follow Trump’s cue and praised the encounter.
“What I thought was especially helpful today was our members just got access and got to ask their questions and talk about their issues,” said Ryan. “I thought he did a great job engaging with our members, and I think our members appreciated it.”
Trump was introduced by Ryan and Larry Kudlow, the conservative commentator and columnist. Ryan introduced Trump as “our nominee for president of the United States.” Kudlow said he believed Trump’s views on key issues are “virtually identical” with the views of the Republican Congress.
Members who asked questions at the meeting were largely supportive of Trump and sought his confirmation that he would pursue their agenda on issues including Obamacare, immigration, mental-health legislation, gun control and veterans’ issues.
Trump touted his campaign’s fundraising as a “tremendous success” and claimed his ground operations would prove to be more effective than most assume. He also claimed that he would be competitive in a number of traditionally Democratic states, including Washington and Connecticut.
Trump repeatedly trashed the press. “The media is so dishonest, and it’s something we have to fight. And we will fight,” he said. “But we have to stay together. And it’s so important we stay together.”
He said that skeptical Republicans should support him because the next president may appoint as many as four new Supreme Court justices. Trump has a list of 11 possible justices that he sent for review to the Heritage Foundation, and said that he’d like to eventually have a list of 15 to choose from.
“Even for the people who don’t like me . . . if you don’t think about anything else, think about the United States Supreme Court,” Trump told the lawmakers.
Trump denied he was an isolationist when it came to foreign policy, and he said he could support trade deals if they were “great deals.” He also said Obamacare would end in 2017.
Regarding the upcoming Republican convention in Cleveland, Trump said that all the speaking slots had been filled. He dismissed the notion that his campaign team is too small or has been too slow to mobilize.
“I view the campaign as starting from the convention on, and maybe I could say from the end of the convention. That’s when I’m really starting,” Trump said. “Just stick with me folks, I know what I’m doing, okay?”