Presumptive Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump sat down with House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday in an unusual and highly anticipated meeting aimed at healing fissures in the party caused by the billionaire businessman's insurgent candidacy.
The two met for about an hour at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee near the U.S. Capitol building, sources told Reuters. Afterward, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the RNC and a Ryan friend, wrote on Twitter that the meeting was "great" and "a positive step toward party unity."
Trump and Ryan then attended a wider meeting with other Republican leaders. Ryan is the nation's top elected Republican and is seen as a leader of the party establishment that has resisted Trump's candidacy.
Click through prominent Republican politicians who have reversed course on Trump:
9 prominent Republican politicians who have reversed course on Trump (BI)
Trump, Ryan meet in bid to heal fractured US Republican Party
Former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal
In a September op-ed for CNN, then-Republican presidential candidate Jindal described Trump as "a shallow, unserious, substance-free, narcissistic egomaniac."
"We can decide to win, or we can be the biggest fools in history and put our faith not in our principles, but in an egomaniac who has no principles," Jindal wrote.
But following Trump's victory in the Republican presidential primary, Jindal offered a very tepid endorsement of the real-estate magnate.
"I think electing Donald Trump would be the second-worst thing we could do this November, better only than electing Hillary Clinton to serve as the third term for the Obama administration’s radical policies," Jindal wrote in The Wall Street Journal.
REUTERS/Brian C. Frank
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry
During his short-lived 2016 presidential bid, Perry called Trump a "cancer on conservatism" and criticized his inflammatory rhetoric about Mexican immigrants.
"Demeaning people of Hispanic heritage is not just ignorant. It betrays the example of Christ," Perry said in his September concession speech. "We can enforce our laws and our borders, and we can love all who live within our borders, without betraying our values."
But after Sen. Ted Cruz dropped out of the race last week, Perry quickly endorsed the presumptive nominee.
"He is not a perfect man," Perry told CNN. "But what I do believe is that he loves this country and he will surround himself with capable, experienced people and he will listen to them."
Sen. Rand Paul (Kentucky)
Last month, Paul said he would support Trump in a likely matchup between Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
But in the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses, the former presidential candidate wasn't as fond of Trump, comparing him to infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
"Donald Trump is a delusional narcissist and an orange-faced windbag," Paul said on Comedy Central.
He added: "A speck of dirt is more qualified to be president."
Sen. Marco Rubio (Florida)
Toward the end of his 2016 presidential bid, Rubio unleashed a flurry of rhetorical attacks on Trump.
Among other things, the Florida senator criticized Trump's hypocritical immigration policy prescriptions, joked about Trump urinating in his pants at a GOP debate, and questioned whether voters should hand "the nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual."
But last month, Rubio began to shift tone. He said he would support any Republican candidate, including Trump, though he ruled out any interest in being Trump's vice president.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley
Haley confirmed last week that she would "respect the will of the people" and would support Trump's candidacy.
Haley's tune was less favorable in February, when she hit the primary campaign trail in her home state for Sen. Marco Rubio, prompting Trump's ire.
"Bless your heart," Haley said, after Trump labeled her an embarrassment.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
Christie became the first major former presidential candidate to endorse Trump. But just a few months earlier, he was warning voters about Trump's preparedness for the office.
"We do not need reality TV in the Oval Office right now," Christie said in December. "President of the United States is not a place for an entertainer."
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
When Walker dropped out of the presidential race after just three months, the governor called on many of his Republican presidential rivals to do the same in order to consolidate support around a conservative candidate.
The governor took a thinly veiled shot at Trump, criticizing the real-estate mogul's brash rhetorical style.
"It has drifted into personal attacks. In the end, I believe that the voters want to be for something and not against someone," Walker said in his concession speech. "Instead of talking about how bad things are, we want to hear how we can make them better for everyone."
Yet late last month, Walker signaled he'd support the GOP nominee against Clinton — though he refused to say Trump's name.
Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sen. Tim Scott (South Carolina)
Scott, a former Rubio endorser, said last week that he would support the Republican presidential nominee.
Though Scott was not a particularly vocal critic of the real-estate magnate, he did condemn Trump's initial refusal to denounce an endorsement from the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
"Any candidate who cannot immediately condemn a hate group like the KKK does not represent the Republican Party, and will not unite it," Scott wrote in a statement. "If Donald Trump can’t take a stand against the KKK, we cannot trust him to stand up for America against Putin, Iran, or ISIS."
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sen. Thom Tillis (North Carolina)
In an interview on Fox Business last year, Tillis, who recently said he would endorse Trump, characterized the former reality-television star's Republican-debate performance as "more entertainment" than policy. He also criticized the presumptive nominee's rhetoric for inciting violence at campaign rallies.
"He has some responsibility for it," Tillis said of the violence at Trump's rallies.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
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Outside the RNC headquarters, a knot of protesters took advantage of the heavy media presence to denounce Trump with signs that said "the GOP, Party of Trump."
"RIP GOP," they shouted, referring to the Republican moniker Grand Old Party.
Party leaders are normally eager to rally around a presidential nominee in order to unite forces for the general election battle. But Ryan has withheld his endorsement of Trump out of concern over his incendiary tone and policy ideas that run counter to deeply held Republican doctrine.
Trump's campaign has suggested Ryan's support is not essential, pointing to the more than 10 million votes Trump has received as the prospective Republican nominee during the party nominating process.
Still, a Ryan endorsement would help Trump and the party move past an increasingly awkward phase during which Republican office-holders and congressional candidates alike have publicly struggled with the decision on whether to get behind the New York real estate mogul.
ull support of leading party figures such as Ryan would also assist Trump in building the kind of campaign infrastructure and fundraising operation he may need to compete against the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, in the Nov. 8 election.
The Hill newspaper on Thursday obtained a memo by the Trump campaign that advocated the benefits of a unified party, arguing that it would put Republicans in the better position to defeat Democrats "at every level" in the election.
For his part, Ryan must weigh the damage endorsing Trump might do to his standing as his party's leading light on conservative policy, an image he has carefully cultivated for years. Ryan, too, may harbor hopes of running for president in 2020.
Click through images of Paul Ryan through his career:
Paul Ryan through his career
Trump, Ryan meet in bid to heal fractured US Republican Party
Speaker of the House Denis Hastert (L) administers the oath of office to Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin as his family looks on January 6, 1999 at the start of the 106th Congress. The oath is a recreation as the formal oath is administered to the entire congress as a body on the floor of the House. (photo by Rex Banner)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 12: Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks at a news conference in which House Republican leaders called for Permanent Tax Relief. (Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)
KRT US NEWS STORY SLUGGED: SOCIALSECURITY-DISCUSSION KRT PHOTOGRAPH BY GEORGE BRIDGES/KRT (April 14) Conversation on Social Security between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), shown, and William Novelli, head of AARP, April 5, 2005 (lde) 2005 (Photo by George Bridges/MCT/MCT via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 22: MEDICARE BRIEFING--Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., speaks at a Cato Institute briefing on Medicare reform in the Rayburn House Office Building. Tom Miller, director of Health Policy Studies at Cato, looks on. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 24: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) questions Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, during a hearing on Capitol Hill about the impact of recent market turmoil on the federal budget on September 24, 2008 in Washington, DC. Orszag reported that while the impact is currently unknown, it is likely to be substantially less than $700 billion. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - APRIL 27: House Budget Committee ranking member Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) delivers an opening statement during a conference committee meeting with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) (L) and House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-SC) in the U.S. Capitol April 27, 2009 in Washington, DC. House and Senate lawmakers have already struck a tentative deal on the FY2010 budget resolution and they hope to file a conference report after today's meeting. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - MARCH 19: (L-R) U.S. House Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) listen during a news conference on the health care legislation March 19, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The House will vote on the Health Care Reform Legislation on Sunday, March 21. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 5, 2011. U.S. House Republicans today unveiled a plan to overhaul the federal budget and slash the deficit in coming years by about three-quarters, with a $6-trillion cut in spending and 25 percent cap on tax rates. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) left, and moderator David Gregory, right, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, April 10, 2011. (Photo by William B. Plowman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 01: Republican Presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) jokes with U.S. Rep Paul Ryan (C) (R-WI) during a pancake brunch at Bluemound Gardens on April 1, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. With less than a week before the Wisconsin primary, Mitt Romney continues to campaign through the state. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is introduced before speaking about 'America's Enduring Promise,' and the federal budget, in a speech at Georgetown University April 26, 2012 in Washington, DC. During his speech, Ryan said that his proposed budget confronts the nation's growing $15 trillion debt before it impacts future generations of Americans. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
NORFOLK, VA - AUGUST 11: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (L) jokes with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) after announcing him as the 'next PRESIDENT of the United States' during an event announcing him as his running mate in front of the USS Wisconsin August 11, 2012 in Norfolk, Virginia. Ryan, a seven term congressman, is Chairman of the House Budget Committee and provides a strong contrast to the Obama administration on fiscal policy. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 14: Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Vice Presidential candidate, waves to the crowd after addressing the Values Voter Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Woodley Park. Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
NEWPORT NEWS, VA - SEPTEMBER 18: Republican vice presidential candidate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), pauses as he speaks during a campaign rally at Christopher Newport University September 18, 2012 in Newport News, Virginia. Ryan continued to campaign for the upcoming presidential election. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: Republican vice presidential candidate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) hugs waitress, Lourdes Alcerro, during a campaign stop at Versailles restaurant in the Little Havana neighborhood on September 22, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Ryan continues to campaign for votes across the country. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) and running-mate Paul Ryan share a laugh as they are introduced at a campaign rally September 25, 2012 at Dayton International Airport in Vandalia, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages)
Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, arrives at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Ryan said he'd be willing to run for speaker of the U.S. House if Republicans unify behind him now, end leadership crises and let him continue spending time with his family. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, center right, walks down the steps of the U.S. Capitol building following a vote in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. Ryan is under heavy pressure from fellow Republicans to run for U.S. House speaker after a hard-line faction forced Speaker John Boehner to resign and his top lieutenant to drop out of the race. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, walks to a meeting in the basement of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Ryan is set to meet with a group of House conservatives Tuesday as he weighs a potential run to replace Speaker John Boehner under pressure from fellow Republicans. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, center, talks to the media after walking out of the U.S. Capitol building following a vote in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. Ryan is under heavy pressure from fellow Republicans to run for U.S. House speaker after a hard-line faction forced Speaker John Boehner to resign and his top lieutenant to drop out of the race. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 20 - Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks at a news conference following a House Republican meeting, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Ryan is stating that he will run for speaker only if he receives enough GOP support by the end of the week. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, awaits the arrival of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin for a meeting at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, December 10, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 10: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) holds his weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill on December 10, 2015 in Washington, D.C. Paul Ryan spoke on topics including Donald Trump and the spending bill. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 15: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, (R-WI) speaks during a Politico interview at the Grand Hyatt on December 15, 2015 in Washington DC. Ryan was interviewed by Politico's Chief White House Correspondent Mike Allen during a Politico Playbook Breakfast. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Trump last week became the presumptive nominee after his remaining rivals, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich, dropped out.
Ryan was the running mate with 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, a harsh Trump critic.
The meeting was not expected to lead to an immediate endorsement by Ryan, who opposes Trump's proposals to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States, deport 11 million illegal immigrants and impose protectionist trade policies.
A chief concern among congressional Republicans is whether Trump will be a strong enough candidate in the November election to ensure that the party maintains control of Congress.
While a number of elected Republicans say they would not be willing to serve as Trump's running mate, Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker and presidential hopeful, did not rule it out. "I would certainly talk about it," Gingrich told Fox News on Wednesday.
Bob Corker, a Republican senator from Tennessee who has been mentioned as possible Trump vice presidential choice, told reporters he would back Trump, but added, "I have no reason to believe that I've been considered for vice president."
U.S. Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, a Republican moderate, told reporters that Ryan had struck the right tone so far in reflecting the sentiment of those Republicans with lingering concerns about Trump.
"A number of us are concerned about the lack of policy positions that he (Trump) has presented. The few that he has are often conflicting or contradictory. Combine that with the incendiary statements on POWs, the disabled, Muslims, Hispanics, women, it's a cause for concern," Dent said.
U.S. Representative Steve King, an Iowa Republican who backed Cruz in the primary race, said Trump needed to acknowledge the conservative bent of the Republican Party. "I'm saying again to Donald Trump: Reach out to the conservatives, start that process, recognize you're not going to be elected president without it," King said on MSNBC.
U.S. Representative John Fleming of Louisiana, a Republican favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement who supports Trump, said the Ryan-Trump meeting would begin the process of unifying the party that may last until the July 18-21 nominating convention in Cleveland.