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Donald Trump, Paul Ryan play down rift ahead of Thursday’s summit

Donald Trump is set to meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday, a major step in the presumptive GOP nominee’s effort to unite the party before the general election. Judy Woodruff talks to Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, Republican strategist Mike Murphy and former Rep. Vin Weber, R-Minn., about whether Trump can mend the deep divisions he’s created and what the future may hold for the party.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now the latest from the presidential campaign:

    Republicans showed some tentative signs today of trying to unify, ahead of a closely watched sit-down in Washington.

    REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), Speaker of the House: Anyone have any questions?

  • QUESTION:

    Mr. Speaker?

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, the questions at the Capitol this morning were all about Donald Trump. The party's presumptive presidential nominee meets tomorrow with the nation's most powerful elected Republican.

    Last week, Ryan said he wasn't ready to support Trump. Today, he said he's trying to be — quote — "as constructive as possible."

  • REP. PAUL RYAN:

    We come from different wings of the party. The goal here is to unify the various wings of the party around common principles, so we can go forward unified.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For his part, Trump also played down any rift with Ryan this morning when he phoned into FOX News.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: And I have a lot of respect for Paul Ryan. If we make a deal, that will be great. And if we don't, we will trudge forward like I have been doing, and winning, you know, all the time.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Trump easily won yesterday's GOP primaries in West Virginia and Nebraska, while West Virginia's Democratic voters handed a primary victory to Bernie Sanders. That did little to cut Hillary Clinton's big lead in delegates, but Sanders was undeterred.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), Democratic Presidential Candidate: Let me be as clear as I can be. We are in this campaign to win the Democratic nomination.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Clinton kept her focus on Trump, as she campaigned today in Camden County, New Jersey, one of the states voting June 7.

    HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: I will stand up and fight for and speak out for every American that he attacks and he insults.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • HILLARY CLINTON:

    How do you explain to your children when someone running for president encourages people to be beaten up, encourages violence?

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Clinton also challenged Trump to release his tax returns. The New York billionaire said Tuesday he is waiting for an audit of his finances that won't be ready before the November election.

    No matter what comes out of his meetings on Capitol Hill tomorrow, presumptive nominee Donald Trump has already created deep divisions within his own party.

    We get two different Republican viewpoints on the future of the GOP from strategist and NBC News political analyst Mike Murphy and from Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho.

    Gentlemen, we welcome both of you.

    The two of you do represent part of the spectrum of viewpoints inside the Republican Party.

    Let me start with you, Congressman Labrador.

    Why did you decide, coming from where you do, to support Donald Trump?

    REP. RAUL LABRADOR (R), Idaho: Well, it was pretty simple. We have two choices, unfortunately, right now. We have Donald Trump and we have Hillary Clinton. I'm not going to support Hillary Clinton. I know everything that she's going to do. I know the kind of people that she's going to nominate to the Supreme Court. I know the kind of people that are going to be her V.P.s.

    I know the kind of people that are going to be on her Cabinet. And I know the policies that she's going to push. With Donald Trump, at least we have an opportunity to work with him and we have an opportunity to sit down with him. And he's going to try to do some things that Republicans want.

    So, it was a pretty simple decision. Donald Trump wasn't even on my top 10 list of people that I wanted for the nomination. But now he won the nomination fair and square, and I think it's time for all of us to unify.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mike Murphy, you're a Republican who has probably never supported a Democrat, but why isn't Donald Trump someone you can get — you can go along with?

  • MIKE MURPHY, Republican Strategist:

    Well, to be clear, I'm not supporting Hillary Clinton. I think she would be an awful president.

    The problem is, I know Trump would be an awful president, too, and to support him, in my view, crosses a moral line and sells out every principle our party believes in. He is not a conservative. He is not a good businessman. I don't think he believes in anything other than himself. And he is not qualified to be president of the United States, both by some of the things he's said and by the clear lack of comprehension he has on a lot of complicated, important issues.

    So Republicans like me are going to be focusing down-ballot, where we have a Senate to reelect, and House races and gubernatorial races we care a lot about, but no way I am going to vote for Trump.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Congressman Labrador, let's just tackle part of that. We heard Mike Murphy say he's not qualified to be president.

  • REP. RAUL LABRADOR:

    You know, he might not be qualified. That's up to the people to decide whether he's qualified or not.

    But the reality is that we know what makes Hillary Clinton disqualified. And on this race, we only have two choices. I'm also going to be concentrating down-ballot. I'm also going to be worried about the Senate and the House. But the reality is that we have a very important decision that needs to be made about who the next Supreme Court justice is.

    There is only one person who is going to make that decision, and it's going to be the next president of the United States. So I'm hoping that we can influence Donald Trump to pick the right person for the Supreme Court, to pick the right person to be his vice president. All those are very important decisions.

    And even though I disagree with him a lot, I think I'm going to disagree with Hillary Clinton a lot more.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Why isn't that an argument to at least try to work with Donald Trump, Mike Murphy?

  • MIKE MURPHY:

    Well, because everything we know about Trump's history, which tends to predict the future, is bad.

    He's been a liberal Democrat. He's pretended to be a conservative. The Supreme Court is important, but Trump will put Gary Busey on it. I mean, he's totally uncontrollable. So taking a 100-to-1 bet that the one issue Trump will be trustworthy and responsible on is the Supreme Court in exchange for handing him the presidency — although, frankly, I think he can't win and he's going to bring disaster to the party nonetheless — I think is a fool's bet.

    And the moral compromise you have to make to support a guy like that is a price too high to pay. The Republican Party can outlast four years of Hillary Clinton if we have to and rebuild a party that is worth voting for in four years. I don't like the idea of Hillary Clinton as president, but I just abhor Trump too much to support him.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Congressman Labrador, just today or yesterday, Donald Trump said once again he stands by his comments that Senator John McCain is not a hero for having been shot down in North Vietnam, having served as a prisoner of war. Is that something you're comfortable with?

  • REP. RAUL LABRADOR:

    You know, I am not comfortable with a lot of things that Donald Trump said.

    In fact, I have said that he needs to grow up. He acts like a child many times. There are many things that he has to do. But I can tell you for sure that I know that what Hillary Clinton is going to do is going to be bad for the United States. With Trump, at least we have an opportunity, and I don't think you need to make a moral compromise.

    What you need to say is, I'm going to vote for a person, but I'm also going to hold him accountable. Maybe for the first time, Congress starts acting like Congress. I think too many times, we put on our jerseys and Republican members of Congress actually go with the Republican president and allow the Republican president to do things that they shouldn't be doing.

    And then the Democrats do the same thing. Maybe, for once, the Republicans in Congress will actually stand up to a president of their own party, and I think that's pretty healthy. So I don't think I have to have any moral compromise. I actually have to make sure that I hold him accountable, just like I held Barack Obama accountable.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mike Murphy, what about holding Donald Trump accountable?

  • MIKE MURPHY:

    Well, I have to admit I'm amused that the first time I think in his political career that Congressman Labrador has ever talked about compromise is to sell our party out to a guy like Donald Trump.

    The fact is, Trump is a wild card. I mean, this is presidential politics. We're not electing a second-class ward heeler in a city here. This is the big job. This defines who we are in our party. And to roll over for that and the idea that now you have a Republican president you can oppose, instead of a Democratic president you can oppose, is specious to me. I don't buy that logic one bit.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Congressman Labrador, I want you to respond to that and also to this new controversy that's arisen, Donald Trump saying yesterday that he will not release his tax returns before the election after all.

    Today, Mitt Romney put out a statement saying that's a disqualifier for the Republican Party nominee for president.

  • REP. RAUL LABRADOR:

    You know, it's funny to have Mike Murphy actually talk to me about compromise. I'm actually the leader in the House on any kind of compromise on criminal justice reform. I have been working on immigration reform. I'm actually working on the Puerto Rico bill right now.

    So it shows that he's pretty ignorant about who I am and the things that I stand for. Just because I don't like the things that he wants to do to the party, which is to make it a centrist party that stands for nothing, I think, is one of the problems that we have, and it's the main reason that we have Donald Trump right now, is because people like Mike Murphy who actually kept telling us to capitulate to this president, to compromise, to do things that went against our principles, is why we have Donald Trump.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But, Congressman Labrador, very quickly, I want to come back to this question of tax returns. Does it concern you that Donald Trump will not release them before the election?

  • REP. RAUL LABRADOR:

    It does concern me. There are a lot of things that concern me about Donald Trump. There is a lot of issues that he has said, that he has raised that are concerning.

    I think his reaction to certain people, it's actually concerning. And I think he should release his tax returns. I think he's using some excuse right now that he can't do it because he's under an audit. I think that's preposterous. I think he needs to come clean. And I think the American people need to know more about him, if he wants to win the election.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mike Murphy, how…

  • MIKE MURPHY:

    This, we agree.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Go ahead.

  • MIKE MURPHY:

    I'm with the congressman on this.

    This tax thing is a huge issue, and Trump has to come clean on it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Final thing for both of you.

    Donald Trump's comments about women, The Washington Post ran just a few of them, statements he's made years ago that were derogatory toward women.

    Congressman, I can't repeat any of them here. How do you accept that and still support him?

  • REP. RAUL LABRADOR:

    You know, I think he's done a lot of things that are terrible, but I think Hillary Clinton has said and done a lot of things that are terrible.

    Unfortunately, we're picking between the lesser of two evils. I wish we had a nominee — I first supported Rand Paul. Then I supported Ted Cruz. I think if more people in the party would have gotten behind a real constitutional conservative like Ted Cruz, I think we would have a different conversation right now.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Right.

  • REP. RAUL LABRADOR:

    But I am going to choose the person who I think will give us the best possibility to have a Supreme Court nominee that can actually be good.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mike Murphy, final word here.

  • MIKE MURPHY:

    It is a choice between two evils. And the way you fight evil is to never choose it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And we will leave it there.

    Mike Murphy joining us from Los Angeles, Congressman Raul Labrador joining us from Capitol Hill, we thank you both.

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