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Trump in DC to Meet With GOP Lawmakers 06/13 06:08


   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Donald Trump is making a triumphant return to Capitol 
Hill to meet with House and Senate Republicans, his first since sending the mob 
to "fight like hell" ahead of the Jan.6, 2021 attack, as GOP lawmakers find 
themselves newly energized and reinvigorated by his bid to retake the White 

   Despite the federal charges against Trump for conspiring to overturn the 
2020 election, and his recent guilty verdict in an unrelated hush money trial, 
the Republican former president arrives Thursday emboldened as the party's 
presumptive nominee. He has successfully purged the GOP of critics, silenced 
most skeptics and enticed once-critical lawmakers aboard his MAGA-fueled 

   "We're excited to welcome President Trump back," said House Speaker Mike 
Johnson, who led one of the lawsuits challenging the 2020 election, and had his 
biggest fundraising day yet after Trump's felony conviction.

   The Republican speaker demurred over whether he's asked Trump to respect the 
peaceful transfer of presidential power and commit to not doing another Jan. 6. 
"Of course he respects that, we all do, and we've all talked about it, ad 

   Trump is scheduled to deliver remarks to both groups at the House and Senate 
campaign headquarters near the U.S. Capitol and discuss issues animating his 
campaign -- including mass immigration deportations but also tax cuts and other 
priorities for a potential second term.

   In between, Trump is expected to speak at the Business Roundtable downtown 
which routinely invites the presumptive presidential nominees to address the 
executives' group. Many potential priorities for a new White House 
administration are being formulated by a constellation of outside groups, 
including Project 2025, that are laying the groundwork for executive and 
legislative actions, though Trump has made clear he has his own agenda.

   But the private meetings with House and Senate Republicans so close to the 
Capitol are infused with symbolism of Trump's return as the U.S. president who 
threatened the American tradition of the peaceful transfer of presidential 

   "It's frustrating," said former U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who 
made his own unsuccessful run for Congress as a Maryland Democrat in the 
aftermath of Jan. 6, when police engaged in hand-to-hand fighting to stop Trump 
supporters who stormed the building trying to overturn President Joe Biden's 

   Dunn spoke of the "irony" of Trump returning to the area and lawmakers now 
embracing him. "It just shows the lack of backbone they have when they're truly 
putting party and person over country," he said. "And it's sad."

   Many of those who once stood up to Trump are long gone from office and the 
Republicans who remain seem increasingly enthusiastic about the possibility of 
him retaking the White House, and the down-ballot windfall that could mean for 
their own GOP majorities in Congress.

   Johnson met with senators on Wednesday ahead of Trump's arrival as the 
Republicans mapped out potential priorities.

   Outgoing Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who once blamed Trump for 
the "disgraceful" attack that he called an "insurrection" now endorses the 
party's presumptive nominee and said: "Of course I'll be at the meeting."

   Sen. John Thune, the GOP whip who is vying to replace McConnell as leader, 
told The Associated Press that he's interested in hearing from Trump about the 
fall election and "ways in which we, as a team, and him individually can appeal 
to the constituencies and people that may not traditionally vote Republican."

   Thune said, "I think there's an opportunity there to really make this a big 

   As democracies around the world come under threat from a far-rightward 
shift, experts warn that the U.S. system, once seemingly immune from 
authoritarian impulses, is at risk of populist and extremist forces like those 
that Trump inspired to sack the Capitol.

   "This is just another example of House Republicans bending the knee to 
Donald Trump," said Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, the chairman of the House 
Democratic caucus.

   Making Jan. 6 a cornerstone of his reelection campaign, Trump celebrates 
those who stormed the Capitol as "warriors" and "patriots," and he has vowed to 
pardon any number of the more than 1,300 America convicted of crimes for the 
assault on the seat of U.S. democracy.

   Moreover, Trump has vowed to seek retribution by ousting officials at the 
U.S. Justice Department, which is prosecuting him in a four-count indictment to 
overturn the election ahead of the Jan. 6 attack and another case over storing 
classified documents at his Mar-A-Largo home.

   Republicans, particularly in the House but increasingly in the Senate, are 
vigorously following his lead, complaining of an unfair justice system. The 
House voted to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress 
and is re-investigating the House committee that investigated Jan. 6.

   Alongside Trump, the House and Senate GOP campaign arms scored some of their 
highest fundraising periods yet after a jury found him guilty in the New York 
hush money case.

   When former GOP Speaker Paul Ryan on Fox News reiterated this week that he 
wouldn't be voting for Trump and wished Republicans had another choice for 
president, he was immediately ostracized by Trump allies.

   "Paul Ryan, you're a piece of garbage," said Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas. "We 
should kick you out of the party."

   Of the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over Jan. 6 and convict him on 
the charge of inciting the insurrection, only a few remain in office.

   Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, are not 
expected to attend Thursday's closed-door session with Trump.

   But Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said he would likely join the Trump meeting at 
GOP senators' campaign headquarters, expecting "he's going to be the next 
president, so you have to work" together.

   Asked if he was concerned about the direction of the Trump Republican Party, 
Cassidy: "Let the day's own troubles be sufficient for the day. You can fill 
yourself up with anxiety about tomorrow, but will it change a thing? No."

   Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who confronted Trump at times but did not join in 
the vote to convict him in the Capitol attack, said he did not expect the 
meeting to be contentious as Republicans hope to seize the Senate majority this 

   "Look, we've got to win. And our ability to get a majority in the Senate is 
intrinsically linked to Trump winning. So we're like, one team, one vision. And 
I think that will be largely what we talk about," Tillis said.

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