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Republican House Speaker Ryan Backs Trump After Long Courtship

Paul Ryan, the top elected Republican, ended a long period of soul-searching and endorsed Donald Trump for president on Thursday, a step toward unifying party loyalists behind the insurgent candidate despite concerns about his candidacy.

Ryan had been a high-profile holdout to supporting Trump for the Nov. 8 presidential election out of concern about the presumptive Republican nominee’s bellicose rhetoric and break with party orthodoxy on issues including trade and immigration.

The House of Representatives speaker announced his support in a column for the Janesville Gazette newspaper in his home state of Wisconsin. It surfaced in the middle of a speech by Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in which she launched a far-reaching attack on Trump’s foreign policy credentials.

Ryan did not specifically use the word “endorse” in his column, but his spokesman, Brendan Buck, made clear that Ryan’s move should be seen as an endorsement.

The speaker had criticized the Republican candidate several times, including Trump’s proposal in December to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the United States because of national security concerns.

The 46-year-old Ryan was the only member of the Republican congressional leadership who had not formally embraced Trump.

In a tweet, Trump responded: “So great to have the endorsement and support of Paul Ryan. We will both be working very hard to Make America Great Again!”

Ryan’s backing of Trump could give cover to more reluctant Republicans to get behind the billionaire businessman as their best chance to win the White House.

“I think the endorsement is significant because it shows the falling in line of the establishment Republicans from the top,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean.

It should also help Trump make the case that he can bring the party together as he girds for a Republican nominating convention in July that many party leaders plan to skip.

It also represents a blow to Republicans who have been trying to organize a third-party bid to give party loyalists who cannot abide Trump someone else to support. The “never Trump” crowd includes 2012 nominee Mitt Romney. Ryan was Romney’s vice presidential running mate.

While Ryan’s decision could push some Republican leaders off the fence, many holdouts remained, such as two former rivals, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Aides to both said their positions had not changed.

Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid described Ryan’s move as “abject surrender,” adding: “The GOP is Trump’s party now.”

 

‘HEAL THE FISSURES’

Ryan met Trump in a high-profile meeting last month and they have since had a number of telephone calls.

“It’s no secret that he and I have our differences. I won’t pretend otherwise,” Ryan wrote. “And when I feel the need to, I’ll continue to speak my mind. But the reality is, on the issues that make up our agenda, we have more common ground than disagreement.”

Ryan said he and Trump had spoken many times in recent weeks about how, “by focusing on issues that unite Republicans, we can work together to heal the fissures developed through the primary.”

“Through these conversations, I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives. That’s why I’ll be voting for him this fall,” Ryan said.

Announcing he will vote for Trump should make it a bit more comfortable for Ryan to chair the party’s nominating convention in Cleveland.

While Ryan’s endorsement was significant for Trump, there remain many concerns about him within the party.

Longtime Republican financier Fred Malek drew attention to worries about Trump in a column in the Washington Post on Thursday. He cited Trump’s criticism last week of New Mexico’s Republican governor, Susana Martinez, considered a rising star in the party with the ability to appeal to Hispanics.

“These attacks on fellow Republicans must stop as we move closer to the general election,” Malek wrote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, who has said he will support Trump, told CNN that Trump’s proposed Muslim ban was a bad idea and that his criticism of Martinez was ill-advised.

Ryan said he too still had concerns about Trump’s tone.

“It is my hope the campaign improves its tone as we go forward and it’s all a campaign we can be proud of,” Ryan told the Associated Press.

 

Additional reporting by Alana Wise, Emily Stephenson and Richard Cowan; Editing by Peter Coone

Photo: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks during a news conference in Washington, U.S., May 26, 2016.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Clinton Calls Trump Too Unsteady To Be President

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton pivoted to a general election matchup against Republican candidate Donald Trump on Thursday, saying he is dangerously unpredictable and not qualified to be president.

Confident that she is finally close to defeating U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for the Democratic nomination, Clinton turned heavy fire on Trump, who has been running about even with her in national polls of voters looking ahead to the Nov. 8 presidential election.

On the Republican side, Trump promoted top aide Paul Manafort to serve as campaign manager and chief strategist, the Trump campaign said. Corey Lewandowski, the trusted Trump aide who has had the title of campaign manager, will continue overseeing day-to-day operations, the campaign said.

In a CNN interview, Clinton used the example of the apparent downing of an EgyptAir plane from Paris to Cairo to say that Trump would lack the skills to bring together U.S. allies to respond to global threats.

“I know how hard this job is and I know that we need steadiness, as well as strength and smarts in it, and I have concluded that he is not qualified to be president of the United States,” Clinton said.

Trump, the Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee, has been intensifying his criticism of Clinton by lobbing personal attacks at her and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state, said she would resolutely refuse to respond to Trump’s goading. “He can say whatever he wants,” she said.

But she said the EgyptAir crash reinforces the need for American leadership and that Trump’s proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States has sent the wrong signal to countries that Washington will need to work with in the fight against Islamic militants.

“He says a lot of things that are provocative, that actually make the important task of building this coalition, bringing everybody to the table and defeating terrorism more difficult,” she said. “It sends a message of disrespect and it sends a message that makes the situation inside those countries more difficult.”

Trump stepped up efforts to rally Republican loyalists behind his campaign after winning a divisive primary fight that left the party ruptured.

On Capitol Hill, Manafort and other Trump aides met with conservatives in the House of Representatives who are members of the Freedom Caucus group and canvassed them for policy ideas.

“Manafort was reaching out for ideas” on policy, and several Freedom Caucus members made suggestions, said Republican Representative Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee.

“It went very well, it was encouraging. I think the Trump team recognizes the relevance of the Freedom Caucus, and the influence they have. I think actually, despite some early skepticism by some members, I think the (Freedom Caucus) board received Manafort and his representation of Trump very well,” DesJarlais said.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who met Trump a week ago to try to resolve differences over their approaches to key issues, said he thought a list of 11 potential Supreme Court nominees, a group of conservative jurists announced by Trump on Wednesday, “was a very good step in the right direction.”

Ryan told reporters that “our teams are meeting” to talk policy, and “we’re making progress, but that’s all I’ve got to say at this point.”

The highest-ranking House Republican woman, Representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, said she had cast an absentee ballot for Trump in Washington state’s primary next week, leaving Ryan as the only top Republican in Congress who has not backed Trump.

 

Additional reporting by Alana Wise; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

Photo: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at La Gala in Bowling Green, Kentucky, U.S., May 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Trump, Ryan To Meet In Hopes Of Easing Republican Discord

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrived in Washington for an unusual tete-a-tete on Thursday with Paul Ryan, the country’s top elected Republican, to see if they can begin healing fissures in the party created by Trump’s insurgent candidacy.

Party leaders are normally eager to rally around a presidential nominee in order to unite forces for the general election battle. But Ryan, the U.S. House of Representatives speaker, has withheld his endorsement of Trump out of concern over his incendiary tone and policy ideas that run counter to deeply held Republican doctrine.

Both Trump, the presumptive nominee, and Ryan struck a conciliatory tone before their 9 a.m. EDT meeting at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee, a session that will include RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, a Ryan friend who wants unity for the party.

“I have a lot of respect for Paul Ryan,” Trump said on Wednesday on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends. “We’ll see what happens. If we make a deal, that will be great. And if we don’t, we will trudge forward like I’ve been doing and winning, you know, all the time.”

Trump last week became the presumptive nominee for the Nov. 8 election after his remaining rivals, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and Ohio Governor John Kasich, dropped out. His likely general election rival is Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Ryan told reporters on Wednesday he just wanted to get to know Trump.

“There is plenty of room for different policy disputes in this party. We come from different wings of the party. The goal here is to unify the various wings of the party around common principles so we can go forward unified,” Ryan said.

Ryan was the running mate with 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, a harsh Trump critic.

The meeting was not expected to lead to an immediate endorsement by Ryan, who opposes Trump’s proposals to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States, deport 11 million illegal immigrants and impose protectionist trade policies. Trump has also sent mixed signals on whether he would raise taxes if elected.

The billionaire New York businessman and former reality television star has shown little inclination to change tactics and policy positions that have carried him to the cusp of the presidential nomination.

Trump will also meet with Senate Republican leaders, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and other House Republican leaders. A chief concern among congressional Republicans is whether Trump will be a strong enough candidate in the November election to ensure the party maintains control of Congress.

While a number of elected Republicans say they would not be willing to serve as Trump’s running mate, Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker and presidential hopeful, did not rule it out. “I would certainly talk about it,” Gingrich told Fox News late Wednesday.

 

HIGH BAR

U.S. Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, a Republican moderate, told reporters that Ryan had struck the right tone so far in reflecting the sentiment of those Republicans who carry lingering concerns about Trump.

“A number of us are concerned about the lack of policy positions that he (Trump) has presented. The few that he has are often conflicting or contradictory. Combine that with the incendiary statements on POWs, the disabled, Muslims, Hispanics, women, it’s a cause for concern,” Dent said.

U.S. Representative Steve King, an Iowa Republican who backed Cruz in the primary race, said Trump needed to acknowledge the conservative bent of the Republican Party. “I’m saying again to Donald Trump: Reach out to the conservatives, start that process, recognize you’re not going to be elected president without it,” King said on MSNBC.

Republican strategist Doug Heye said Trump has a high bar to convince skeptical party loyalists about his candidacy.

“It’s not so much about trade or what his tax plan will be,” Heye said. “It’s the broader messaging that for the past eight months has told women and minority communities throughout the country that the Republican front-runner doesn’t want them, doesn’t need them and doesn’t care about them.”

U.S. Representative John Fleming of Louisiana, a Republican favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement who supports Trump, said the Ryan-Trump meeting would begin the process of unifying the party, which may last until the July 18-21 nominating convention in Cleveland.

“I really think everything has to be resolved by the end of the convention,” he said.

 

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Emily Stephenson, Doina Chiacu; Editing by Peter Cooney and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives at the Republican National Committee for a meeting with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque