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Paul Ryan ‘Encouraged’ by Meeting With Donald Trump, as Bizarro Circus Unfolds Outside

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that he had a good meeting with the presumptive nominee, but that it will take more discussion before he can endorse Trump.

by Sarah Mimms
May 12 2016, 4:30pm

Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

The deeply fractured Republican party is on the road to making peace with itself.

At least that's what Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan indicated after their high-stakes meeting Thursday, which they both called "a very positive step toward unification."

"While we were honest about our few differences, we recognize that there are also many important areas of common ground," the two Republican leaders said in a joint statement. "We will be having additional discussions, but remain confident there's a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall, and we are totally committed to working together to achieve that goal."

Trump flew to Washington on Thursday, just a week after he earned the title of presumptive Republican nominee, to get the rest of his party in line.

After meeting with Ryan and Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus, who is acting as a sort of mediator between the bombastic presidential candidate and Republican leaders who are reluctant to ally with him, Trump met with other congressional leaders in the House and Senate.

Priebus tweeted just after the meeting ended that the conversation was "great" and "positive," but did not elaborate further.

The three men's optimistic tone is strikingly different from just last week, when Ryan said he was "just not ready" to endorse Trump for president. Ryan's refusal to stand behind his own party's presumptive nominee sent shock waves through DC and highlighted just how divided the GOP is with Trump as its standard-bearer.

But making up is hard to do, especially since Ryan and Trump have deep, ideological differences of what it means to be Republican. Ryan has cut entitlement programs, like Medicare, while lowering taxes and successfully reaching a budget deal across the aisle. Trump, on the other hand, has said he would "leave Medicare the way it is" and repeatedly bashed the Republican "establishment" that Ryan represents, throughout his entire campaign.

Trump fired back at Ryan's lack of endorsement last Thursday, saying that he in turn wasn't ready "to support Speaker Ryan's agenda."

"Perhaps in the future we can work together and come to an agreement about what is best for the American people. They have been treated so badly for so long that it is about time for politicians to put them first!" Trump said in a statement last week.

Ryan told reporters in a press conference shortly after their meeting that the two had a good "first" meeting, but that the process of uniting the party — and handing over his coveted endorsement — will require more discussions.

"The process of unifying the Republican Party ... takes some time," Ryan said.

"It's very important that we don't fake unifying."

Ryan said that they had discussed his policy proposals as well as Trump's, but their staffs would have to communicate further and get deeper into details before either could officially endorse the other's goals.

Ryan declined to go into the specifics of his conversation with Trump, noting that the two don't know each other well and are just beginning to build trust. But he said that they discussed some of the party's core principles, including the issue of life and abortion, while also talking through some of their larger policy disagreements, which he did not name. "[I] heard a lot of good things," Ryan said.

"He's a very warm and genuine person," Ryan added, calling their talk "very pleasant."

Ryan added that Trump had indicated that he still wants the House Speaker to serve as the chairman of the party's convention in July, and that he is happy to do so.

Aside from a bland joint statement he released with Ryan after the meeting, focusing on party unity, Trump has not commented publicly on his DC talks with Washington leaders. He quietly left his meeting with House leaders at the Republican National Committee's headquarters Thursday through the back door, avoiding throngs of reporters and a significantly smaller group of protesters, all craning their necks to catch a glimpse of the would-be leader of the free world.

The apparent lovefest inside the meeting stood in stark contrast to the slow-moving chaos outside the RNC's headquarters Thursday morning.

The building, near the US Capitol, was surrounded Thursday morning by massive throngs of reporters interspersed with anti-Trump protesters and at least one Trump supporter. Protesters screamed in Spanish and English, largely focusing on immigration, as workers at the nearby Tex-Mex restaurant Tortilla Coast took photos.

A man in a giant papier-mâché head that was apparently supposed to look like Trump (the hair was a bit off) made jokes into a microphone under the costume in a fairly horrific imitation of a Queens accent. The masked man assumed the frontrunner's persona, but alternated between the first and third person, mocking the Republican's stance on women, foreign policy, and other issues, and inexplicably using the word "chartreuse" repeatedly.

At one point during the meeting, the living Trump bobblehead tried to shout down the only visible Trump supporter outside of the RNC, who was singing along with hymns and promising to pray for the protesters through a megaphone of his own. The man, who identified himself as a minister, said that he had met Ben Carson and is hopeful that Trump will choose the neurosurgeon as his vice president. Senator Rand Paul, too, should be in the cabinet, he told reporters, occasionally pausing to blow on a shofar, equally inexplicably.

The circus hit a high point (or a low one, depending on your view of the First Amendment), when an older gentleman in a kilt arrived and stood in front of the arguing protesters and counter-protesters and began playing the bagpipes. He briefly stopped to tell a crowd of TV cameras: "I'm supporting free speech."

Olivia Becker contributed to this story.

Follow Sarah Mimms and Olivia Becker on Twitter: @SarahMMimms, @oliviaLbecker