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Trump met with GOP lawmakers in Washington to rally support, push for unity

Former President Donald Trump visited Capitol Hill on Thursday to meet with House and Senate Republicans.
Brandon Bell
/
Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump visited Capitol Hill on Thursday to meet with House and Senate Republicans.

Former President Donald Trump is in Washington on Thursday to visit with congressional Republicans for the first time since he left office — and since his historic criminal convictions in the New York hush money trial.

Trump is expected to meet lawmakers in closed-door talks near Capitol Hill, with a breakfast visit set with House Republicans and an afternoon session with their Senate counterparts.

"There's high anticipation here and great excitement," House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said ahead of the meeting, adding that his members want to "bounce around ideas" with Trump.

The meeting marks a high-stakes affair for Trump and Republicans heading into the contentious final months of the presidential campaign. While many congressional Republicans are firmly behind Trump, there remains a divide among some Republican members on how strongly to support the former president as he faces multiple legal battles.

Johnson said it's critical for House Republicans to plan for an "aggressive first 100 days agenda."

"I think we cannot waste a moment, because there's so many things to do," Johnson said Wednesday. "So in light of that, we're having discussions with [Trump] and his team now and amongst ourselves to plan accordingly. You don't put the cart before the horse, but you do have to be prepared to lead. And we're going to be prepared."

Ahead of the meeting, Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., said he expects Trump to rally the conference and "lay out a vision, lay out what our role is, lay out for the next five months what he's going to be concentrating on."

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican in the upper chamber, told colleagues that he invited Trump. Barrasso, who chairs the Senate Republican Conference, said he made the invitation to hear Trump's "plans for the summer and policy agenda for 2025," his spokesperson said.

Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., told reporters that he expects the meeting to be a "team-building time."

"Our fight is not among each other. Our fight is fighting against the agenda that the Biden administration is putting out," he said Wednesday. "We're all on the same team and we need to go win the Super Bowl in November, and that's kind of the message he'll bring."

A senior Trump campaign official told NPR this week that the meeting will involve policy discussions looking ahead on Social Security, Medicare, immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border, taxes and foreign policy.

The Senate meeting will also be a chance for Trump to address skeptics within the Republican Party. In recent months, more Senate Republicans, including those initially resistant to weigh in, have said they're supporting Trump's reelection run. Others, like Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., have refused to back him or have continued to avoid discussing their support for the former president.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who was one of seven Senate Republicans to vote to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial, said she isn't attending Thursday's meeting because of a long-standing conflict.

For their part, congressional Democrats said the plans were no surprise and are illustrative of the chaos that faces much of the Republican Party today.

"This is just another example of House Republicans bending the knee to Donald Trump," said House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar. "He wants them to impeach [President] Joe Biden — they failed at that. Now they're moving on to [Attorney General] Merrick Garland. You know, censure, impeachments — that's just how dysfunctional the Republican conference is."

NPR’s Franco Ordoñez and Jeongyoon Han contributed to this report.
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Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
Jeongyoon Han
[Copyright 2024 NPR]