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Trump Mends Fences on Capitol Hill

Former President Donald Trump was on Capitol Hill Thursday for the first time since leaving the presidency.

Donald Trump Meets With Republican Senators At The NRSC

Magnanimity isn’t always the first trait that comes to mind when thinking of former President Donald Trump. Yet, in his own particular way, that is what Trump displayed during his Thursday visit to Capitol Hill—his first since leaving the presidency in January 2021.

Trump met separately with both House and Senate Republicans on Thursday. While there is no transcript or recording of the former president’s remarks in the closed-door meetings, an ample amount of information made Thursday headlines. In both sessions, Trump stressed the need for unity among Republicans as the party gears up for the 2024 election. The former president sought to mend fences with some, namely Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and strengthen the foundations of fledgling partnerships, especially House Speaker Mike Johnson.


“There’s tremendous unity in the Republican Party,” Trump said in a brief statement to members of the media. “We want to see borders. We want to see strong military. We want to see money not wasted all over the world. We don’t want to see Russian ships right off the coast of Florida which is what they are right now. That’s unthinkable. We want to see just success for our country and we don’t have success right now.”

Even without the cameras in the room, Trump was reportedly true to form, delivering a winding exhortation that alternated between stories and second-term agenda items. He fulminated about the left’s effort to imprison him and allegedly called Biden’s Department of Justice “dirty, no-good bastards.” He told House Republicans that Ukraine is “never going to be there for us,” according to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who described the meeting with Trump as a bit of a pep rally. Trump floated replacing all income taxes with tariffs, claimed that one of Nancy Pelosi’s daughters once told him that he and Pelosi would have been a perfect couple, and bantered about Taylor Swift’s support for the current president.

At one point, Trump broke into his Biden impression, mocking his rival’s personal inadequacies that Trump suggests are mirrored in the current president’s administration. He admonished the disasters of the Biden economy and extolled his own.

The meeting did include some more serious discussions. Trump told House Republicans that his campaign message is bringing more states into play come November, such as New Mexico, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Virginia. The former president also boasted of his “no tax on tips” plan that, off the heels of a major rally in Las Vegas, aims to flip the Silver state from blue to red. 

Trump also took a more serious tone when discussing the issue of abortion. Trump warned House Republicans that overplaying the GOP’s hand risks the party’s current advantage heading into 2024. At the same time, he encouraged Republicans to not run from the issue because Democrats are proving themselves to be abortion extremists in the post-Dobbs era, according to CNN. Members, Trump suggested, should follow their convictions, but do so intelligently.


Amid the quips and the policy discussion, Trump’s meeting with the House GOP was a bit of a search for kumbaya—the representatives sang “Happy Birthday” for Trump, whose birthday is June 14. 

Much of the same can be said for Trump’s meeting with Republicans from the upper legislative chamber. Sen. John Barasso (R-WY), currently running unopposed to be the next Senate GOP Whip, played host and brought out a birthday cake. The candles originally read 45, but Barasso playfully changed out the 5 for a 7.

As the election gets closer, Trump has tried to stabilize the House GOP when others have wanted to rock the boat. He provided the cover that the speaker of the House needed when conservatives were breathing down the speaker’s neck after a series of legislative choices that were unpopular with the right wing of the party. Trump made light of the affair Thursday, asking Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who attempted to vacate Johnson, whether she was being nice to the speaker and encouraging the pair to get along.

Johnson was appreciative of the former president, and justly so. “President Trump brought an extraordinary amount of energy, and excitement and enthusiasm this morning,” the speaker said after the meeting.

The biggest snafu for the former president, however, is that he reportedly told House members that Milwaukee, WI, where the GOP convention will be held in mid-July, is a “horrible” city. When word got out that Trump had insulted the biggest city in one of the most important swing states, Republicans from all over the nation gave vastly different answers attempting to contextualize the president’s remarks. Some said Trump was talking about the crime rate, others said it was regarding election integrity. Some flatly denied it happened at all.

Trump made a particular effort to repair his relationship with McConnell during his Thursday trip to the Capitol. Trump reportedly told GOP senators that Republicans underperformed in 2022 not because of Mitch, not because of me,” but because of abortion (although this is not a matter of settled history).

Yet, it is undeniable that McConnell, despite being a lame duck as senate GOP leader, is again set to have a massive impact on the outcome of senate elections. Republicans are looking at a very advantageous map. McConnell still holds the purse strings for senate campaign funds and has a large say over how the GOP conference goes about its business. If Trump wants to get anything other than executive orders out the door, he needs McConnell—and he knows it. Which is why Trump was congenial to his erstwhile detractors Thursday—so much so that one GOP senator told Andrew Desiderio of Punchbowl News, “I was like, who’s this guy and what did he do with Donald Trump?”

McConnell, who hadn’t met with Trump since the 2020 election, seems to have taken the olive branch. “I can’t think of anything to tell you out of it that was negative,” McConnell said of the meeting.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who is running to replace McConnell as leader, said Trump’s remarks to the senior legislators was “very reserved” in “tone and substance.”

Members of the Senate who have been known to buck McConnell from time to time were also pleased with Trump’s remarks. “[Trump] was extremely gracious by the way. There was no score-settling,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) told CNN.

“He is the choice of our voters overwhelmingly. It shows that he is absolutely the leader of the party,” Hawley added. “I mean, you had people who have vociferously opposed him, who were sitting right next to him in the room.” McConnell and Thune reportedly flanked Trump’s right and left.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said Trump was “getting the team back together.” Rubio said he felt optimistic after the meeting, “but a lot of work to be done,” according to CNN.

“President Trump was in very good spirits, focused on winning back the White House,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) claimed.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) said Trump’s message was one of “unification, leadership,” which the Alabama senator added is “few and far between up here.”

Trump ran in 2016 on not being a politician. It helped Trump win, but hurt him when he was in power—his enemies could out maneuver him. Eight years later, he’s still running as an outsider, but a politician—a former president—nonetheless. And that might help him win, and govern, this time.