WASHINGTON — Congress’ top elected Republican stopped short of endorsing Donald Trump for president on Thursday but reported an “encouraging” and “productive” initial conversation after meeting with the presumptive nominee for roughly an hour this morning.
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters that Trump was a “very warm and genuine person” during their closely-watched meeting at the Republican National Committee, a stone’s throw from the Capitol.
“We really don’t know each other and we started to get to know each other,” said Ryan.
“I was very encouraged with what I heard from Donald Trump today. I do believe that we are now planting the seeds to get ourselves unified and bridge the gaps and differences,” he said.
But Ryan did not roll out an endorsement of the billionaire, saying that he needs more time to build a relationship and work out policy differences.
“The process of unifying the Republican Party, which just finished a primary about a week ago, perhaps one of the most divisive primaries in memory, takes some time,” he told reporters at a news conference later on Thursday.
Ryan is the most prominent active GOP official to withhold support for Trump so far. Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, announced his tepid support of the real estate magnate last week. McConnell also met with Trump Thursday.
Trump also took time to meet with other House GOP leaders, as well as RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who tweeted the following after the meeting.
None of Georgia’s Republican lawmakers were in attendance (an aide for Monroe Republican Jody Hice did not respond to requests for comment), but the confab did appear to draw interest from former U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey:
Speaking of the scene outside of Trump’s meetings, it was nothing short of a media circus.
It drew dozens of reporters and camera crews — check out this cool 360 degree view here — as well as protesters from organizations such as CODEPINK:
The scene also drew a few Trump supporters (see the man with the horn above). The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call has a photo gallery of the scene here.
Trump remained publicly silent after the meeting, but his office published the following joint statement with Ryan:
“The United States cannot afford another four years of the Obama White House, which is what Hillary Clinton represents. 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. With that focus, we had a great conversation this morning. While we were honest about our few differences, we recognize that there are also many important areas of common ground. We will be having additional discussions, but remain confident there’s a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall, and we are totally committed to working together to achieve that goal. We are extremely proud of the fact that many millions of new voters have entered the primary system, far more than ever before in the Republican Party’s history. This was our first meeting, but it was a very positive step toward unification.”