House Speaker Paul Ryan called his Thursday morning meeting with Donald Trump “encouraging” but didn’t signal he is ready just yet to endorse his party’s de facto presidential nominee.
“I do believe we are now planting the seeds to get ourselves unified to bridge the gaps and differences,” Ryan told reporters after the two met at the Republican National Committee headquarters.
In a joint statement after their summit, the two stressed that the party must unite to defeat likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton 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,” Trump and Ryan said in the statement. “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.”
The highly anticipated sit-down to try to bridge many disagreements between the GOP’s likely nominee and party leaders drew swarms of media and protesters. The crazy scene included a Trump impersonator in a huge piñata mask mocking Trump on a megaphone, immigration activists, signs that read “Trump is a racist” and “Islamophobia is un-American,” and chants of “GOP RIP, GOP RIP.”
Ryan said last week he wasn’t ready just yet to officially endorse Trump, saying he needed to do more to bring together “all wings of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.” Trump’s campaign hoped that Thursday’s full slate of meetings with Ryan and other GOP leaders would be the first step in trying to do just that.
The two also said they “will be having additional discussions” and called it a “very positive step toward unification.”
Speaking to reporters later, Ryan didn’t answer if or when he would officially endorse Trump. He admitted that “it’s no secret that Donald Trump and I have had our differences” but that “it was important that we discuss our differences … but it was also important we discuss the core principles that tie us all together.”
“It’s very important that we don’t fake unify, that we truly and actually unify,” the speaker added.
Reince Priebus tweeted after the meeting ended that it was “great” and “a very positive step toward party unity.”
The RNC chairman later told NBC’s Katy Tur in an interview that there was a “mood of cooperation and a feeling like it’s time to unite the party.”
After leaving the meeting with House leadership, Trump headed to meet with Senate leaders at the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s headquarters. GOP control of the Senate was very volatile in 2016, and there’s growing worry among Republican strategists that Trump atop the ticket could sink many of their incumbents in battleground states.
Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon that it had been a day of productive meetings.
While Republicans have a more comfortable majority in the House, there is concern he could have an adverse effect on congressional races as well.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., said in a statement Thursday, though, that he would support his party’s nominee.
“While I may disagree with the rhetoric Mr. Trump uses and some policy positions, he is the better option than Hillary Clinton in the White House,” Walden said.
Along with Ryan, House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., remains a holdout among GOP leadership in endorsing Trump. After Thursday’s meeting, the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress called the meeting “a very important first step forward to unify as Republicans” in a statement but also didn’t endorse the likely White House nominee.