Donald Trump Holds Private Meeting With GOP Leaders In Washington, D.C.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump has had a busy day in Washington. He and other candidates came to town to address the pro-Israel group AIPAC. Trump's itinerary also included a meeting with members of the Washington GOP establishment and a news conference at what will soon be the newest Trump hotel. It's right on Pennsylvania Avenue, just blocks from the property that Trump hopes to acquire in November, the White House. NPR's Mara Liasson was at that news conference, and she's in the studio now. Hi, Mara.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Robert.
SIEGEL: Big day - a big day for Trump in the nation's capital.
LIASSON: Yes, a big day in terms of the number of events. The AIPAC speech, meeting with some current and former members of Congress, sit-down with the Washington Post editorial board. But if this was Mr. Trump goes to Washington, so far at least we can't say he took the capital by storm. It was a very small meeting of former members of Congress and current members of Congress.
There was former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who hasn't yet endorsed him, would-be speaker - would-have-been speaker Bob Livingston, who's now a big lobbyist - he is supporting Trump - Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who has not yet endorsed him. And of course Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was there, who has already endorsed him, and Jim DeMint, former South Carolina senator, now head of the Heritage Foundation.
SIEGEL: I mentioned that you were at the news conference at the soon-to-be Trump hotel. What was the scene there?
LIASSON: Well, in many ways it was classic Trump. It was in the atrium of this very large unfinished hotel, which he said was going to be the greatest, the biggest, the most beautiful hotel, and it has a very - it's going to have a very big, beautiful hotel ballroom. He did say - as to the big question on the mind of many Republicans, he predicted he will easily make the 1,237 delegates he needs for the nomination. He told Republicans, you do not want to be fighting over the nomination at the convention.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DONALD TRUMP: If people want to be smart, they should embrace this movement. Time Magazine calls it a movement. It's been on the cover numerous times. They call it a movement. If they want to be smart - if they don't want to be smart, they should do what they're doing now, and the Republicans are going to go down to a massive loss.
SIEGEL: Mara, what else has Mr. Trump had to say today?
LIASSON: Well, he said that he's going to release a list of seven to 10 potential Supreme Court justices if he's president. He says he will pick off the list, and the Heritage Foundation is putting together the list for him. He also met, as I said, with the Washington Post's editorial board. This is a paper whose editorial page has savaged him repeatedly.
The meeting was on the record and, according to the Post, he told them that he wanted an aggressive U.S. foreign policy with a light footprint. No more nation-building. He questioned the United States' continuing involvement in NATO, saying that U.S. involvement in NATO may need to be significantly diminished. That's another big break with not just Republican orthodoxy but a bipartisan foreign policy consensus for almost 70 years. He also said the U.S. military presence in the Pacific might need to be scaled back. He said the U.S. doesn't get very many benefits from it.
SIEGEL: Mara, this is all November talk. This is all fall campaign stuff. He still has a nomination that he has to win if he's to be the candidate. Are Republicans getting used to the idea that he might well be their nominee?
LIASSON: No, not yet. At this point, usually the party falls in line behind the front runner. Instead of falling in line, the party almost looks like it's falling apart. We've had meetings about potential third-party candidates if the #StopTrump people can't stop him at the convention.
It's very chaotic, internally divisive. Not a day goes by without an anguished blogger column from a Conservative saying morally, I can't vote for someone I think is an authoritarian demagogue. But even at this late date in the process, the anti-Trump forces have not unified around a stop Trump strategy or a candidate. So I think the Republican Party is either in the process of cracking up or being transformed into something completely different.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks.
LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.