US elections 2016

Trump and Ryan meet to mend rift

Democratic senators ( from left) Charles Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, Chris Coons and Robert Casey holding a news conference on Thursday following meetings between Mr Trump and Republican leaders. They pointed to policies that Mr Trump and Republicans a
Democratic senators ( from left) Charles Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, Chris Coons and Robert Casey holding a news conference on Thursday following meetings between Mr Trump and Republican leaders. They pointed to policies that Mr Trump and Republicans agree on and said they were operating from the same textbook.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Reconciliation under way, says Speaker, but no endorsement yet

WASHINGTON • The presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan appeared to take half a step back from their political stand-off after a meeting, as Mr Trump toured Washington for a swirl of meetings with Republican lawmakers concerned about the direction of his campaign.

In public, Mr Ryan praised Mr Trump as "warm and genuine" and declared that a process of reconciliation was under way.

Behind closed doors, Mr Trump pulled back his threat to remove Mr Ryan as chairman of the Republican National Convention and offered to help elect Republican candidates running for the House and the Senate.

Significant fissures remain between Mr Trump and Republican congressional leaders: Mr Ryan reminded him privately that many voters opposed him in the primaries, and in a separate meeting with senators, several lawmakers urged Mr Trump to moderate his tone on immigration.

But the abrupt shift in posture towards Mr Trump represented a remarkable turnaround. Only a week ago, Mr Ryan took the unusual step of announcing on television that he was "just not ready to support" Mr Trump. (Mr Trump responded by saying he was "not ready to support Speaker Ryan's agenda".)

  • What now for Trump?

  • Q What does it mean to be the presumptive nominee? If nobody else is running, why isn't Mr Donald Trump just called the nominee?

    A A candidate officially becomes the nominee of the party when a majority of the party delegates vote for him at a nominating convention. For Mr Trump, that means getting at least 1,237 delegates to vote for him at the convention in Cleveland in July. Until that point, he is only presumed to be the nominee as there are no other active candidates. He still has to continue securing delegates. He has clinched 1,086 so far.

    Q So there are still primaries even though there is only one active candidate?

    A Primaries continue to take place as many candidates would have applied earlier to be on the ballot and their names will continue to show up on voting slips even though they have suspended their campaigns. The primaries also involve more than just the presidential nominee. It often includes elections for smaller local races as well as ballot initiatives like whether or not to approve a major development project in the area. However, voter turnout tends to drop significantly after there is a presumptive nominee.

    Q Since he is not yet the nominee, can Mr Trump still be stopped?

    A In theory, it might be possible, but in practice, it is extremely unlikely. The party has control over the rules of the convention and there has been some talk of changing it to allow delegates to defy the results of the primaries and choose someone other than Mr Trump. But doing so could lead to chaos at the convention.

    Alternatively, some have floated the idea of fielding an independent candidate. This is also far-fetched. It will require hundreds of thousands of signatures on a petition and a lot of money in a short period of time to put a new name on the ballot before registration deadlines. And even then, third-party candidates have historically stood no chance of winning.

    Jeremy Au Yong

On Thursday, Mr Ryan appeared to be cautiously leaning in the direction of a growing group of Republicans who have decided that embracing Mr Trump is their best defence against Democrats maintaining the White House for another four years.

"Going forward, we're going to go a little deeper in the policy weeds to make sure we have a better understanding of one another," Mr Ryan said in a news conference.

A candidate officially becomes the nominee of the party when a majority of the party delegates vote for him... For Mr Trump, that means getting at least 1,237 delegates to vote for him at the convention in Cleveland in July. He has clinched 1,086 so far.

He added that it was important for both of them to discuss their differences as well as "core principles that tie us together".

Mr Trump also met the broader House leadership team and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and his staff.

In wide-ranging discussions, several lawmakers said, they stressed to Mr Trump the need to have a unified policy agenda and made gentle suggestions on how to change his tone and to recapture the White House.

Mr Ryan and Mr Trump met at the Republican National Committee for 45 minutes on Thursday morning, with Mr Reince Priebus, the committee's chairman, as their chaperone.

Mr Ryan gave no public signal that he was poised to back Mr Trump, and two people briefed on their private meeting said they did not discuss a possible endorsement. Mr Ryan told Mr Trump that while he wants to support him, their staffs must keep talking, people briefed on the conversation said.

But in effusive remarks after the sit-down, Mr Ryan insisted that the party leadership was not on the brink of an irreparable split.

"Donald Trump and I have had our differences - we talked about those differences today," Mr Ryan said, adding: "I do believe that we are now planting the seeds to get ourselves unified."

While Mr Trump was meeting Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, a Senate hearing provided a forum for critics in his party to take aim at his foreign policy proposals.

Former secretary of state James Baker said that the world "would be far less stable" if the US left the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation or let South Korea and Japan obtain nuclear weapons, proposals floated by Mr Trump during the campaign.

NEW YORK TIMES, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2016, with the headline 'Trump and Ryan meet to mend rift'. Print Edition | Subscribe