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Republican Leaders React to Meeting with Trump

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump continues to try to rally support from within his party, meeting Thursday with party leadership.

Among those in attendance were House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and President Pro Tempore of the Senate Sen. Orrin Hatch. After the meeting, while Ryan said he was "encouraged," he stopped short of offering an endorsement for the billionaire.

While Ryan and Trump issued a joint statement calling for Republicans to "unite around our shared principles," Ryan said that he believed it is "very important that we don't fake unifying, we don't pretend unification, that we truly and actually unify so we are full strength in the fall."

Sen. Hatch offered lukewarm support for Trump as well, calling the upcoming presidential election "perhaps the most important of my lifetime." Hatch, who endorsed Jeb Bush, and later Marco Rubio, during the Republican primary cycle, said that he vowed all along to support the eventual nominee. "Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee, I will do what I can to help him run a successful campaign."

Hatch, who released his statement ahead of Thursday's meeting, said he would offer to assist Trump in identifying possible Supreme Court candidates and would encourage Trump to "soften some of his rhetoric and always act in a manner worthy of a presidential nominee."

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the meeting a great step towards unity, saying that "a lot of progress was made." Those comments were echoed by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

The view of the meeting as an important first step was reiterated by Rep. McMorris Rodgers. "Today was my first opportunity to discuss and impress upon the presumptive nominee the importance of championing a core value of the Republican party," she said, "dreaming big for everyone and turning its back on no one."

Trump also spoke on the phone on Wednesday with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has been an outspoken critic of the likely nominee. Graham called the call "cordial" and "pleasant," but said that his "position remains the same regarding both candidates running for President. I will do what I can in the Senate to help the next president. The next president will inherit a mess."

But unity wasn't the top priority on the minds of every Republican. Sen. Jeff Flake from Arizona told ABC News' Mary Bruce that "pushing back" against Trump is more important than unity.

"I don't think Paul Ryan needs to endorse him," Flake said in a one-on-one interview. "I'm glad Paul Ryan has pushed back so far, certainly it's better if we're unified but I think it's more important that we push back on some of these issues because these last more than one campaign, one presidency."

Flake did admit that Trump's apparent backing off of a proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. was encouraging, but said he was skeptical of Trump's ability to stay consistent. "I worry that next week we'll be back to the complete and total ban," he said. "I want to make sure that that sticks."

"Bottom line is none of us want another four years of a Democrat in the White House," Flake admitted, "none of us want to be in a position where we don't support our nominee, but we've got to be assured that on some of these fundamental points -- whether it's a Muslim ban, a religious test for people who come in the country, change libel laws to sue those who we don't agree with in the press -- some of these things are fundamental and we've got to be right on."

And if Trump doesn't move on those issues? "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Flake said.

Later Thursday, Ryan met with students from Saint Bartholomew's Catholic School in Bethesda, Maryland. The Speaker called the meeting with 24 fifth graders his "most important meeting of the day" on Twitter.



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