WASHINGTON – Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump came to Capitol Hill on Monday to meet with his small but growing list of supporters there, including Reps. Tom Reed and Chris Collins.
And to hear those two lawmakers tell it, the meeting of a few dozen Trump supporters and other prominent Republicans at a Capitol Hill law firm was a quiet and civil discussion of the campaign going forward, one with none of the bombast of the typical Trump campaign rally.
“I would say it was a very positive meeting,” said Reed, R-Corning, who endorsed Trump last week in a statement that called for a more positive tone to the campaign moving forward. “I was very pleased with the tone around the table. What was demonstrated to me in that room is a recognition that the most important thing we need to do – and Donald Trump has himself recognized this – is that we need to set forth a vision for where America needs to go, and the more that that vision is focused on the positive, the stronger we’re going to be.”
Collins, a Clarence Republican who last month became the first House member to endorse the New York billionaire, agreed, saying that Trump seemed to be transitioning to a general election mode where he will work hard to reach out to all Americans.
“We discussed the campaign, and he asked for all of our input,” Collins said. “He wanted to hear from each of us about our districts and certainly, as we know from Western New York, it’s jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs. It was a good outreach on very short notice.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who has endorsed Trump, pulled the meeting together. It consisted mostly of Trump, his aides and his Capitol Hill supporters and staff, but it also included two GOP heavyweights: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint.
However, no members of the House or Senate Republican leadership attended.
“We had a great meeting. We had a really good meeting,” Trump said at a press conference later on Monday. “They can’t believe how far we’ve come.”
Reed discussed the meeting at length on his weekly conference call with reporters.
Asked if pressure from Buffalo developer Carl Paladino – who sent an email last week pressing House members from the state to endorse Trump – had influenced him, Reed said no.
“What influenced me was watching the millions of people that are engaging in this process, many for the first time, and hearing from folks across the district that are supporting Donald Trump,” Reed said. “This was a recognition that we need to coalesce, that we need to unify” in order to defeat the likely Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the fall.
Reed’s Trump endorsement could have personal political consequences, though. Soon after Reed endorsed Trump, the widely respected Cook Political Report changed its rating in Reed’s race against Democrat John Plumb from “likely Republican” to the more competitive “lean Republican.”
“Reed just became the first swing-district Republican to endorse Trump, which has the potential to make the incumbent a more polarizing figure,” wrote David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report.
Plumb, a former White House national security aide, quickly pounced on the fact that Reed met with Trump.
“With his dangerous rhetoric, proposals to expand the use of torture, and threats to target civilians, Donald Trump is weakening our standing internationally and is putting our military men and women at risk in every geographic combatant commander’s area of responsibility around the globe,” Plumb said in a statement. “It’s clear that by endorsing Donald Trump last week and meeting with him in Washington today, Tom Reed fully supports Trump’s reckless rhetoric that makes our country less safe.”
Asked for comment on Plumb’s statement, Reed said Trump offers “a vision to keep America safe,” but the congressman did not address the specific points Plumb raised.