A number of Republican lawmakers said they saw a more presidential side of Donald Trump following the presumed GOP presidential nominee’s meetings with both chambers of Congress Thursday.
House members said Trump’s speech eased a number of critics fears he is too brash in his demeanor to be commander-in-chief, noting they discussed uniting the party and how to best forward the Republican agenda.
“He was very forthright, he was speaking about what he stands for – and what he stands for is making America great, and we cannot as a country be weak and expect to be strong in the world,” Texas Rep. Pete Sessions told reporters following the meeting. “And he needs us to be strong in the world – he needs our military, he needs our veterans and he needs people to be better taken care of. Ya know what, there are a whole lot of things people are going to learn about Donald Trump and I think they will be very pleased.”
Throughout the course of the election, lawmakers have raised concerns over a number of widely criticized comments made by Trump, including a recent tweet referring to likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as the “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever” alongside what appeared to be the star of David. He took around 20 questions from members, allowing them to discuss policy ideas and inquire on any issues they may have had.
Rep. Cresent Hardy of Nevada – who is in a contentious battle to retain his seat, which is one of the most diverse districts held by a Republican in the country – said he asked Trump what he plans to do to make sure “his appeal doesn’t do anything to detract from us winning the state.”
“[Trump] said he believes he can represent well and has the ability to bring those groups together to win the swing state,” Cresent told reporters coming out of the meeting.
Louisiana Rep. John Fleming said he believes Trump was very persuasive in gaining members support. He said the candidate’s outline of what he would like to accomplish and praise of the House GOP blueprint to repeal and replace Obamacare we well received.
“I saw people, and I can’t name them of course, that maybe were skeptical at first that were really sold on Donald Trump,” Flemming said.
Rep. Peter King of New York said Trump jokingly called him out on not supporting him in the past during the meeting, adding it was the best he had ever seen him.
“I’ve been somewhat critical in the past, but today I can honestly say there was not one negative moment, there was no awkward moment, it was all positive and united,” he said. “If today is the way it’s going to be it’s going to be an extremely effective campaign.”
King also noted members were impressed with Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, with some lining up to take pictures with the potential first daughter.
“He did a really good job of talking through some of the concerns that some have about him being a protectionist, and he said He’s not and he’s looking forward to having a conversation about trade that’s to the advantage of his country,” Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina told the press while exiting the meeting.
But not all were swayed following the talks.
A number of GOP members, including House Freedom Caucus members Reps. Raul Labrador and Mark Sanford said issues with the candidate that are cause for concern, but he is better than the alternative – electing Hillary Clinton.
“It was the normal stream of consciousness that’s long on hyperbole and short on facts,” Sanford said. “At one point, somebody asked about Article I powers: What will you do to protect them? I think his response was, ‘I want to protect Article I, Article II, Article XII,’ going down the list. There is no Article XII.”
Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, arguably Trump’s harshest critic, is still completely unsold, with his spokesman saying the senator believes the election is “still a dumpster fire.”
While most House members attended the meeting, a number of GOP senators opted not to go theirs.
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