Donald Trump took a detour from the campaign trail on Monday to try to build relationships with Republican officials and reach out to Jewish voters — while also promoting his latest signature building just blocks from the White House.
The GOP presidential front-runner met Monday morning with several GOP lawmakers who are backing his campaign, which has met resistance from much of the rest of the Republican establishment.
But if his trip was intended to try to grow his support within Washington circles, it’s not clear he made much progress.
Trump huddled Monday morning at the Jones Day law firm, just down the street from the U.S. Capitol, with a small group of lawmakers who endorsed him, including Reps. Chris Collins (N.Y.), Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.), Duncan Hunter (Calif.) and Tom Reed (N.Y).
“I think that you’re going to see more meetings like this in Washington, and I think you’re going to see bigger attendance,” DesJarlais predicted to NPR’s Susan Davis.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who hasn’t endorsed Trump, also attended, along with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, and lobbyist and former Louisiana Rep. Bob Livingston.
“I think once these Republicans who are balking right now stop and reflect about the alternatives and that we could actually be faced with four years of Hillary Clinton, they’re all going to unify,” said Livingston, who had been in line to succeed Gingrich as House speaker but later stepped aside himself amid a sex scandal.
Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint also attended the meeting, and Trump said later at his news conference that the former South Carolina senator was helping him draft a list of 10 possible conservative Supreme Court justices that he’d soon release.
In a meeting with the Washington Post editorial board, Trump also named some members of his foreign policy advisory team — the lack of which had been scrutinized recently. He outlined a very non-interventionist approach globally, even questioning whether the U.S. should be a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Later Trump spoke to reporters from inside the construction zone for his latest luxury hotel at the site of the Old Post Office, Trump boasted of the splendor the newest Trump property would bring to the nation’s capital.
“When it’s complete, it will be one of the truly great hotels in the world,” Trump said, describing the fine marble interior, thick granite walls and “most luxurious” ballroom that are being constructed.
But while Trump, flanked by employees and construction workers, wanted to take questions about his latest business venture, political reporters were more focused on the building down Pennsylvania Avenue he hopes to occupy.
Trump said he was confident that he would reach the 1,237 GOP delegate threshold before the Republican convention in Cleveland this July.
“We should make it pretty easily,” he said. “So from what I’m seeing, we won’t have to fight at a convention.”
Trump certainly sounded more presidential and polished when he addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference Monday evening. He read from prepared remarks and even used a teleprompter for the first time during this campaign.
“I speak to you today as a lifelong supporter and true friend of Israel. I am a newcomer to politics but not to backing the Jewish state,” he told the crowd.
Trump received a more tepid response than some of the other speakers, given that during the last debate he had said he would take a neutral stance in trying to broker a deal between Israel and Palestine. But it was overall a police reception and marked a more hawkish tone from Trump on Israel.
“We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem,” Trump pledged. “And we will send a clear signal that there is no daylight between America and our most reliable ally, the state of Israel.”