- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2016

Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan emerged from a meeting Thursday declaring the GOP is coming together, but lawmakers continued to resist the billionaire businessman’s unconventional agenda, and so far their main point of unity is a desire to beat Hillary Clinton in November.

The Trump-Ryan summit followed a bruising primary race in which the New York billionaire outlined policy positions and espoused controversial rhetoric that appealed to millions of GOP primary voters.

Mr. Ryan did not endorse Mr. Trump but said they reached common ground on key conservative principles — including their pro-life stance — that he said lay the groundwork for working together this fall.

“The question is: What is it that we need to do to unify the Republican Party and all strains of conservative wings in the party? We had a very good and encouraging, productive conversation on just how to do that,” Mr. Ryan said afterward.

Mr. Trump held one meeting with Mr. Ryan and other House GOP leaders and a second meeting with Senate Republican leaders — both of them attended by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Senate Republicans, worried Mr. Trump could cost them their majority in the election, said they urged him to moderate his tone in order to build a broader GOP coalition.

“He will be the nominee, and unless you support Hillary Clinton, which I don’t, then you are going to be supporting the nominee,” said Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the chamber. He said he talked to Mr. Trump about the importance of the Hispanic vote and distinguishing between illegal and legal immigration.

“The part I did talk about was the respect that people expect and deserve when you are talking about a very emotional issue,” he told reporters outside the Senate chamber.

But when asked whether he supported Mr. Trump’s plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico, Mr. Cornyn fell silent and gave a disdainful expression before retreating into the Senate chamber, beyond the reach of reporters.

Mr. Trump and the Washington establishment that he blasted during the primary still rushed to call the meetings a success.

“Great day in D.C. with @SpeakerRyan and Republican leadership. Things working out really well!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

Mr. Ryan, who stopped short of offering to support the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, said they were on the same page regarding “the common core principles that unite all of us.”

Both men also delivered an optimistic message after the powwow — their first face-to-face meeting since a brief encounter in 2012, when Mr. Ryan was the party’s vice presidential nominee — warning that Mrs. Clinton, if elected, would usher in another four years of President Obama’s policies.

“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,” they said in a joint statement.

The party’s elected leaders have been slowly coalescing behind Mr. Trump since he locked up the nomination last week, with Mr. Ryan being the most prominent holdout.

Mr. Trump has been actively working to soothe things out with GOP critics, and he reached out Wednesday to Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who has said he cannot support Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton in the November election.

Mr. Graham described their phone conversation as “cordial” and “pleasant” but said “my position remains the same regarding both candidates running for president.”

Most who have pledged their support to Mr. Trump fail to embrace the agenda that catapulted Mr. Trump to the nomination, including his wildly popular plan to build a wall on the United States’ southern border.

Democrats and their allies, convinced that opposition to Mr. Trump will fire up the liberal base, seized on the GOP meetings.

The leading immigrant rights group America’s Voice sent taco bowls to 20 Republican lawmakers, mocking Mr. Trump’s social media post on Cinco de Mayo with a photo of himself eating the Mexican-style dish.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a fundraising email that highlighted the meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Ryan. “You guessed it: Paul Ryan changed his mind and is now ready to work with Trump,” it said.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers offering support for Mr. Trump also found it difficult to vouch for him being a conservative.

“He’s a mosaic,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican.

Rep. Trent Franks said that, as a conservative, he couldn’t trust Mr. Trump to do the right thing, but that wouldn’t stop him from supporting the GOP nominee.

“I most certainly can deeply trust Hillary Clinton to do the wrong thing every time,” said the Arizona Republican. “So recognizing that her election likely means the vitiation of the Constitution for a generation and the undermining of this republic for at least that long, I will not only vote for Donald Trump, I will encourage all conservatives to do the same because the stakes are so very high.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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