Following their much anticipated meeting first thing this morning, Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan touted that they are "totally committed to working together" in a joint statement after their high-profile Thursday morning meeting, calling for "shared principles" and a "conservative agenda."The meeting between the two GOP heavy hitters, brokered by Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, captured the political world Thursday amid questions of whether the two could coexist now that Trump is the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
"The United States cannot afford another four years of the Obama White House, which is what Hillary Clinton represents," the pair said in the joint statement released by Ryan's political office.
“That is why it’s critical that Republicans unite around our shared principles, advance a conservative agenda, and do all we can to win this fall."
The statement adds that the pair had a "great conversation" where the two hashed out their "few differences" but recognized "common ground." The pair expressed confidence that they would ultimately unite, hailing the meeting as "a very positive step toward unification."
Live feed below
Following today's eagerly anticipated summit between Paul Ryan and Donald Trump, don’t expect a joint press conference or photo op. As the Hill notes, Ryan is showing no signs that he’s prepared to swiftly endorse Trump when they emerge from their huddle at Republican National Committee (RNC) headquarters on Thursday morning.
Instead, the first formal sit-down between the presumptive GOP presidential nominee and the Speaker of the House, under the watchful eye of a multitude of TV cameras and reporters, represents more of an opening bid in the relationship between a Manhattan billionaire one step from the presidency and congressional leaders trying to protect their House and Senate majorities, not to mention the GOP brand.
As a reminder, Ryan delivered a stunning blow to Trump, appearing on CNN and declaring he was “not ready” to support or endorse the real estate mogul and reality TV star. The move was surprising to many because Ryan has repeatedly insisted in interviews this year that he would unequivocally back whoever won the nomination. Ryan together with Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus will be discussing how to get out of the uncomfortable impasse at the RNC headquarters on Capitol Hill.
It’s not only Ryan (R-Wis.) who’s hesitant to get aboard the Trump train. While many rank-and-file members are pressuring the Speaker to rally behind Trump, others are still deeply disturbed by the candidate’s controversial comments and actions related to Mexicans, Muslims, women, POWs, the disabled and white supremacists. And influential conservatives are pushing the candidate to clarify his confusing positions on such issues as tax increases, raising the minimum wage and abortion.
As NBC adds, the differences between the wonky House Speaker and the brash billionaire go far beyond personality. Ryan has staked his career on conservative policies including sweeping entitlement reforms, while Trump has thumbed his nose at much of the traditional Republican Party policy orthodoxy in favor of a more populist vision. Ryan told reporters Wednesday that he wants the meeting to focus on substantive efforts at finding common ground.
"What we are trying to do is to be as constructive as possible, to have a real unification," he said. "To pretend we're unified without actually unifying, then we go into the fall at half strength," he added. "This election is too important to go into an election at half strength." Ryan and Trump have met in person only once before in 2012, and spoke over the phone in March. Ryan has said he would step down as chair of the GOP convention in July if Trump asks him to.
Following Trump's meeting with Ryan and Priebus, the real estate mogul will meet Republican leaders in both the House and Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Ryan will also attend the House leadership meeting.
A spokesman for Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt told NBC News, "The senator will use the opportunity to remind him that what we say and how we say it matter in making it clear that our common goal is defeating Hillary Clinton and guiding America in a new direction."
Trump said it was his goal to unite the GOP after rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich ended their 2016 bids last week. But since becoming the party's de facto nominee he wasted no time in engaging in the kinds of rhetoric many in his party had feared, continuing to accuse Clinton of "playing the woman card" and attacking her and her husband for the former president's sex scandal.
He may have a tough time: many influential conservatives are pushing the candidate to clarify his confusing positions on such issues as tax increases, raising the minimum wage and abortion.
“A lot of people want to know what Mr. Trump’s policies are. I’d like to know what his policies are as well,” said Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), who is chairman of the 170-member Republican Study Committee (RSC) and, like Ryan, has not yet endorsed.
Asked if he were on board, Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) replied: “With our [House GOP] agenda.”
“With Donald Trump?” a reporter followed up.
“With our agenda,” said Wenstrup, whose state will play host to the Republican National Convention in July.
As the Hill adds, the stakes for the meeting, and the Republican Party, are huge.
Several polls released in the last two days have suggested a close race between Trump and likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump is seeking to unite the GOP behind his White House bid, and many Republicans are ready to get behind him with the argument that Clinton must be stopped short of the White House. Others, echoing Ryan, aren’t there yet and are worried about whether the maverick Trump will lead congressional Republicans to a landslide defeat in November.
GOP aides said there would not be a joint Trump-Ryan news conference after the meeting but that Ryan will hold his usual end-of-week news conference in the Capitol later Thursday. As for the media-hungry Trump, it’s unclear whether he will address the gaggle of reporters after the meetings. The last time he visited the RNC, he sneaked in and out through a back alleyway entrance, giving only a wave from afar.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), a Trump surrogate, is working to schedule a meeting between the candidate and the far-right House Freedom Caucus in the near future, caucus members confirmed. And Flores said Trump should make an effort to meet with the conservative RSC as well.
“I think it would be beneficial for him to reach out to as many members of Congress as he can,” Flores said in the interview. “If I were a presidential candidate, I would definitely reach out to the largest caucus in the conference.”
Meanwhile, House leaders plan to ask Trump on Thursday to meet with the entire 246-member GOP conference at a later date, as is customary for the party’s presidential nominee, said Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who will sit in on one of the several meetings with Trump. “A lot of members don’t know him,” said McCarthy, a Trump delegate from California. “And anytime you want to unify the party, you have the nominee there with the entire conference so that everybody can ask questions and get answers directly.”
Then again, everone knew John Boehner who accordint to many managed to divide the GOP far more than Trump ever could.
As for Ryan's decision not to back Trump, he’s faced some backlash, but it hasn’t been enormous — probably because Ryan has spent the past six months as Speaker reaching out to rank-and-file members, building relationships with them and giving them opportunities to shape policy decisions. That’s a marked difference from how the public now views Ryan.
A new Public Policy Polling survey showed him underwater, with 44 percent of Republicans disapproving of the way he’s doing his job and 40 percent approving. In November, nearly 70 percent of Republicans supported Ryan becoming Speaker. “I think that Paul is a very thoughtful and responsible leader, and he’s going through that process,” said Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), one of Trump’s first supporters on Capitol Hill.
But a handful of other Republicans aren’t exhibiting the same kind of patience.
“To me, it’s pretty clear you have two choices”: Trump or Hillary Clinton, said Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), who first backed Cruz but now supports Trump.
Ryan “could have handled it much better. He made a pledge to support the nominee a few months ago. He should have said, ‘I’m going to keep my pledge, but I still have some questions,’ ” Labrador told The Hill. “I think that would have been the right approach.”
Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), a Jeb Bush backer who is now on board with Trump, said he’s not expecting a Trump-Ryan “group hug” on Thursday. But he does want Ryan to move it along.
“I would like to see him get to yes sooner rather than later because we need to unify the party, and he holds the key to that,” Ross told The Hill.
In an interview on Fox News on Wednesday, Trump said it will be "great" if he makes some kind of deal with Congressional leaders. "And if we don't, we will trudge forward like I've been doing and winning all the time," he said.
The GOP's internal strife was apparent at a House Republican conference meeting on Wednesday, sources in the room told NBC News. Six GOP House members openly expressed their frustrations with Ryan for his hesitancy to support Trump. Others said they now felt pressure to choose sides — Trump or Ryan.
Today will be the day they have to make that decision.