Trump returns to Washington with a new grip on the GOP

Donald J. Trump flew to Washington last summer in a miserable mood. He was there to press criminal charges and he later told his associates that the city was disgusting. Aides said he could sense Washington’s hostility.

Today, he returns to the nation’s capital under different circumstances – to demonstrate his dominance over a political and business establishment that has been forced to make deals with him.

The former president is now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee against President Biden, after defeating several primary opponents, raising hundreds of millions of dollars in recent months and rallying many Republicans supported him to denounce his recent criminal conviction in Manhattan as evidence of his crimes. a weaponized justice system.

Mr. Trump’s scheduled meetings with lawmakers — including Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader who denounced him on the Senate floor weeks after the violent attack on the Capitol of a pro-Trump mob on January 6, 2021 – are the clearest examples yet of how an establishment that still hates him has embraced the possibility of his return to office. After years of hoping that someone else might step up to lead their party, that establishment is slowly accepting the reality of the 2024 campaign.

“There are high expectations here and great excitement,” Chairman Mike Johnson told reporters Wednesday ahead of Trump’s visit.

The former president’s morning will begin with an early meeting with a group of House members, followed by a visit with dozens of executives from the prestigious Business Roundtable. In the afternoon, he will visit with senators at a meeting led by Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, a close ally who in January became the highest-ranking senator to endorse his candidacy. Mr. Trump, organization.

The agenda of the meetings is not entirely clear; A campaign official said the meetings with lawmakers will focus on policy issues including the migrant crisis. One lawmaker planning to attend, who was not authorized to discuss the meetings, said there was no clear agenda other than that Mr. Trump was looking to generate enthusiasm.

Republican House members have been his staunchest supporters in Washington for many years, especially as his endorsements have helped shape the structure of the GOP conference by attracting supporters. support Trump through the primaries.

But the meeting with senators, who have been less responsive to Mr. Trump’s demands in recent times, will be the first time Mr. Trump has been in the same room with Mr. McConnell since 2020, when the former president was seeking ran for reelection and then, eventually, tried to enlist lawmakers to help him maintain power.

Mr. Trump’s repeated claims of widespread voter fraud in battleground states like Georgia were widely seen as low voter turnout in the two Senate elections, making Republicans majority.

The day after those votes, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol in a deadly siege aimed at stopping the certification of Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory. Mr. McConnell condemned Mr. Trump’s actions and declared him responsible.

But he also did not vote to convict Trump’s impeachment trial After that, the president was about to leave second such test, saying it was the wrong forum for a president without office. The decision to acquit Mr. McConnell and other Republicans in the Senate would be fateful, ultimately setting the stage for Mr. Trump’s unlikely comeback. A conviction would likely ban him from office.

“We have a criminal justice system in this country,” Mr. McConnell said in a speech after the trial on the Senate floor. “We have civil litigation. And former presidents cannot avoid being responsible to either of them. I believe the Senate was right not to assume power that the Constitution did not give us.”

Since then, Mr. Trump has been indicted four times and convicted in what may be the only trial to take place before Election Day. But Mr. McConnell, for whom regaining control of the Senate is the most important issue, said long before Mr. Trump became the nominee for the third time that he would support his party’s nominee, right away. even when it was Mr. Trump.

Pressed about Mr. Trump’s visit to Washington, Mr. McConnell told reporters on Wednesday, “I said earlier this year that I supported him. He received the nomination of voters across the country.”

Despite the expectations of Mr. McConnell and many others, Mr. Trump did not disappear. He turned his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida into a Republican Mecca, where prospective candidates would have to visit to seek his endorsement. He crushed the man many thought would succeed him, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, and went on to win most of the primaries and caucuses in which he participated, reaching gained strength in the Republican primary following his indictment.

For the most part, those indictments have helped Mr. Trump politically. They pushed Mr. Trump’s allies to accuse the two-tiered justice system, including some lawmakers on Capitol Hill who said Republicans needed to use the tools of the criminal justice system to indicted Trump’s prosecutors and a host of Democrats.

Between meetings in the House and Senate, Mr. Trump will be chaired by the Business Roundtable, whose members include executives such as Apple’s Tim Cook and JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon.

Most corporate America turned away from Mr. Trump after the violence on January 6. But as he rose in the polls, and as some business leaders grew increasingly disillusioned with Mr. Biden as Trump’s tax cuts are set to expire in 2025, some have supported Mr. Trump or accepted his offer for a second administration.

Mr. Trump and his campaign have been eager to recruit them as donors, and in recent weeks, many business leaders have privately said they would participate.


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