He arrived 20 minutes late.
Then presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump addressed the House GOP’s rank and file in a standing-room-only meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington. He talked in broad strokes about the Supreme Court, trade, tax reform, securing borders, Saddam Hussein and how the media has been unfair to him. And the Constitution — but more on that in a moment.
For some already skeptical members, the meeting–which had been
billed as an opportunity to finally let the rank and file get comfortable
with their sometimes bombastic nominee–left a lot to be desired.
“It’s awkward. It’s really awkward,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said when
asked what it was like to sit in a meeting when the nominee doubled down
on his stump speech line that Saddam Hussein had killed a lot of
terrorists. “There is a lack of enthusiasm. You can feel it.”
Kinzinger said that at one point, Trump had used the Saddam story as just one
example of how the media has treated Trump unfairly.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) said that members asked about his effect on the
House and Senate races. One member asked pointedly about Trump’s
comments about Hispanic voters.
“He said Hispanics love him,” Dent said, noting that the polls showed no such thing. “All I can say is that I haven’t endorsed him. I believe he has a lot of persuading to do.”
Another Republican in the meeting Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) told TPM that Trump was asked pointedly if he would defend Article I of the Constitution.
“Not only will I stand up for Article One,” Trump enthusiastically stated,
according to Sanford. “I’ll stand up for Article Two, Article 12, you name it of the Constitution.”
Sanford said Trump’s lack of knowledge about how many articles exist, gave him “a little pause.” (The Constitution has seven articles and 27 amendments.)
“There wasn’t a lot of substance, and I think at some point we got to get to
substance in the most significant political position in the world,” Sanford said.
Blake Farenthold (R-TX) dismissed the flub as little more than a small error.
“He was just listing out numbers,” Farenthold said. “I think he was
confusing Articles and Amendments. Remember, this guy doesn’t speak from
a TelePrompter. He speaks from the heart.”
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) said that Trump did a good job at the meeting “laying out a conservative agenda,” but when asked if he still had fears about Trump’s candidacy, Meadows said, “I got an interview I got to run to.”
The meeting appeared to change very few minds. Those, who had supported
Trump continued to shower praise upon the nominee. Rep. Scott DesJarlais
(R-TN), an early endorser, said Trump even appeared to be at ease with
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). A few Republicans in the meeting said that
Trump joked about the times Ryan has had to awkwardly disavow Trump’s
rhetoric and policy positions.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) who had endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the primaries still wouldn’t offer his endorsement to Trump even as he said he was getting closer.
If Trump wins the nomination in Cleveland, King said he could get on board, but there is still a chance….
“I am not going to say I am committed regardless of what happens between now and Cleveland,” King said. “That’s all and any delegate ought to have that reservation.”