Republicans, including detractors, embrace Trump in return to Washington after Jan. 6


(WASHINGTON) — Donald Trump made a rare appearance in Washington on Thursday to lay out his second-term agenda to Republican lawmakers as he continues to stress party unity in the wake of his historic felony conviction and a month from becoming the party’s official nominee.

The former president spent the day just blocks away from the U.S. Capitol to attend a slate of meetings with GOP allies.

First, he huddled with House Republicans at the Capitol Hill Club. The meeting was behind closed doors, but multiple sources told ABC News the former president praised House Speaker Mike Johnson as doing a “good job.”

Trump also criticized the Department of Justice as “dirty bastards” as he aired grievances about his legal challenges.

The meeting unfolded as the Supreme Court handed down a major decision preserving access to the abortion pill mifepristone. Sources told ABC News Trump did not mention the decision directly, but did discuss his view that abortion access should be decided by the states. He also insisted he believed in three exceptions to abortion restrictions: rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.

Politically, Trump told Republicans they could have a 40-seat majority in the House if they weren’t so “afraid” of the issue, according to sources.

He also went after Democrats like former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Rep. Liz Cheney, sources said. Both Pelosi and Cheney, despite being on opposite sides of the aisle, are staunch critics of the former president.

Later on Thursday, Trump met with Senate Republicans at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters. After the meeting, he touted party unity in on-camera remarks but took no questions from reporters.

“This is an outstanding group of people. I’m with them 1,000%, they’re with me 1,000%. We agree just about on everything and if there isn’t, we work it out,” Trump said.

In a show of force, Trump was joined by a large group of senators, including Sens. Rick Scott, Josh Hawley, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Marsha Blackburn, and many others. Sens. Tim Scott and J.D. Vance, two vice presidential hopefuls, were also there to support Trump.

“We want to see just success for our country,” Trump said. “And we don’t have success right now.”

Trump has stayed off the U.S. Capitol campus entirely since he left office shortly after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

His return on Thursday prompted President Joe Biden and Democrats to highlight the riot. The Biden-Harris campaign released a new advertisement claiming Trump is trying to “burn it all down” with footage of the Capitol riot.

The former president said while Democrats accuse Republicans of being “a bad example of democracy,” they’re the ones who “are getting away with murder.”

The Senate Republican discussion marked the first time since 2020 that Minority Mitch McConnell and Trump met face-to-face.

McConnell and Trump have a rocky relationship, heightened after McConnell recognized President Joe Biden’s victory in the wake of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

But McConnell, walking back to the U.S. Capitol building afterward, called it a “positive meeting.”

“He and I got a chance to talk a little bit and shook hands a few times,” McConnell said. “He got a lot of standing ovations. It was an entirely positive meeting. Mitt Romney was there as well.”

Johnson has more openly embraced Trump, who was crucial in supporting him when he faced the threat of being ousted by conservative GOP House hard-liners, saying coordination with Trump is important heading into November’s election and a potential second Trump presidency.

“I think it’s important for the country, to have us, to have close coordination,” Johnson said at a news conference on Wednesday. “I believe he’ll have, can be, the most consequential president of the modern era, because we have to fix effectively every area of public policy.”

At that news conference, Johnson also told ABC News he supports a bill that would allow current or former presidents to move state charges against them into federal court — a measure aimed at showing support for Trump after being found guilty in his hush money trial in a New York state court.

“I think that’s an idea that makes sense. It makes sense to most Republicans, and I think almost everyone will be in favor of that.”

After the Thursday morning meeting, Johnson said that Trump “didn’t bring up that specific piece of legislation.”

“He did talk about his concern about the lawfare that’s been waged against him — and we all know it — and I made the point in my introduction that it’s backfired fantastically,” Johnson said. “President Trump has become a symbol of pushing back against corruption, the deep state of the weaponization of judicial system and that’s a very encouraging development. So, I think that he made the point every time they indicted him, his polls went up.”

However, not every Republican fully welcomed back Trump when he came to the nation’s capital.

Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who have been vocal Trump critics, blamed previous conflicts as a reason for why they couldn’t attend the meeting with Trump.

The two voted with Democrats to impeach Trump for his actions related to Jan. 6.

As he was in Washington, Trump also participated in a moderated discussion at a quarterly meeting of the Business Roundtable, a group consisting of more than 200 CEOs. Business Roundtable spokesman Michael Steel said the group invited both presumptive presidential nominees, but with Biden overseas to attend the G7 summit, White House chief of staff Jeff Zients joined the meeting in his absence.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.