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Trump holds tense talks with senate Republicans

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump met with Republican senators to try to mend fissures within a party that remains skeptical about his candidacy.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump met with Republican senators to try to mend fissures within a party that remains skeptical about his candidacy.Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

Donald Trump held a tense meeting with Republican senators and sought to make peace with Sen. Ted Cruz, his former rival for the presidential nomination, in a whirl through Washington intended to mend fissures within a Republican Party that remains deeply skeptical about his candidacy.

Trump huddled with Cruz and Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, around noon, according to two people familiar with the matter, after meetings with House and Senate members that were organized to quell lingering concerns within the party about its presumptive nominee.

The meetings came as Trump continues to raise anxiety among Republicans about his temperament less than two weeks before the party holds its national convention in Cleveland. As with the convention, which begins July 18, some leading Republicans including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a former primary opponent, decided to pass on the meeting.

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Some doubters, including Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, did attend and, according to people with knowledge of their exchanges, Trump did not appreciate being confronted about his past statements.

After the usual pleasantries and a discussion about the state of his campaign, the presumptive Republican nominee lashed out at Sasse, who has declined to endorse Trump. The New York business tycoon asked Sasse if he preferred to have Hillary Clinton as president.

James Wegmann, a spokesman for Sasse, said the meeting did not change the senator’s mind.

“Mr. Sasse continues to believe that our country is in a bad place and, with these two candidates, this election remains a dumpster fire,” he said.

Things became even more pitched when Flake, who has also withheld his endorsement, objected to Trump’s statements about Mexican-Americans and his attacks on a federal judge about his Hispanic descent. He described Trump’s language as offensive and wrong. Trump responded dismissively.

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Trump also denounced Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, who did not attend the meeting and who withdrew his endorsement of the nominee over his inflammatory comments about the judge. Trump, apparently feeling under siege, said Kirk should not have rescinded his support, according to one attendee.

A dejected Kirk said later that it was his understanding Trump had called him a “loser” and that he did not believe that the candidate could win Illinois in the fall.

Trump has disappointed some members of the party who were hopeful that his campaign would become more professional and disciplined ahead of the general election. Trump doused some of those hopes Wednesday night, when he went on an extended rant attacking his critics in a speech in Ohio.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan said the meeting was “great” during his weekly news conference and declined to discuss the controversy over Trump’s recent Twitter post of a Star of David shape in an image suggesting that Clinton is corrupt.