an Leaders

Donald Trump Clears the Air With Republican Leaders


Donald J. Trump was in Washington for a meeting at the Republican National Committee headquarters on Thursday.
Donald J. Trump was in Washington for a meeting at the Republican National Committee headquarters on Thursday.Credit Susan Walsh/Associated Press

Updated, 8:12 a.m. | Outwardly, Donald J. Trump called it a “unity meeting” — a closed-door session in Washington on Thursday involving his own inner circle and the Republican National Committee’s high command.

Inside, however, it was more of a clearing of the air, according to three people briefed in detail on the discussion.

And the candid remarks included some by Mr. Trump directed at his own team.

There was plenty of tension to defuse: For months, Mr. Trump has denounced the party’s major donors, and only this week he went back on a written pledgeto support whoever becomes the Republican presidential nominee because, he said, the party had treated him “unfairly.”

In the meeting, held at the committee’s headquarters, the Republican national chairman, Reince Priebus, laid out for the party’s front-runner the need for the committee and Mr. Trump’s campaign to have a good relationship, according to the three people, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Mr. Priebus, who was joined by the committee’s chief operating officer, Sean Cairncross, and its chief of staff, Katie Walsh, told Mr. Trump and his team that the party wanted to be helpful to him but that it was difficult to do so in the face of his routine criticism, according to those briefed.

Mr. Trump was joined by his son, Donald J. Trump Jr.; his lawyer, Donald F. McGahn; his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski; the national political director Michael Glassner; and Mr. Trump’s spokeswoman, Hope Hicks.

When the discussion turned to the wrangling of delegates to the party’s nominating convention in Cleveland this July — an issue that has dogged Mr. Trump and his skeletal campaign organization for months — Mr. Priebus explained that states all had different rules governing how they were selected.

Mr. Trump has found himself at a disadvantage in some states, as his aides have allowed rival campaigns to peel some delegates away. Mr. Trump mentioned Louisiana, where he won the primary, but where Senator Ted Cruz is likely to come away with more delegates after exploiting peculiarities in the state’s system, according to those briefed on the meeting.

The situation in Louisiana infuriated Mr. Trump, who threatened this week to sue the Republican National Committee over it.

But when Mr. Priebus explained that each campaign needed to be prepared to fight for delegates at each state’s convention, Mr. Trump turned to his aides and suggested that they had not been doing what they needed to do, the people briefed on the meeting said.

In recent days, Mr. Priebus, who insists that the committee has stayed scrupulously neutral throughout the contentious primary fight, has also let it be known that he does not plan to let the Trump campaign take over the party apparatus if he captures the nomination.

At an off-the-record happy hour with reporters last week, Mr. Priebus said clearly that, regardless of precedent, he would not be layered over by Mr. Trump’s loyalists, according to two people present.

After the account of the meeting was published on Friday morning, Mr. Lewandowski and Mr. Glassner confirmed that the issue of Louisiana had been raised, but said the reports about Mr. Trump expressing aggravation with his team were untrue.

“Mr. Trump specifically asked the R.N.C., ‘Do I have a good delegate team, headed by Ed Brookover?’ They said, ‘Yes you do, he is one of the very best,’” Mr. Lewandowski said. “He said, ‘What else should I do?’” From there, he said, the R.N.C. listed some other types of staff additions he could make.

Mr. Glassner agreed that was the context of the meeting, adding that Mr. Priebus had praised Mr. Brookover and called the conversation “cordial.”

Ashley Parker contributed reporting.

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