Donald Trump and Paul Ryan spoke by telephone on Wednesday night, as the pair of Republican leaders try to break a weeks-long impasse over an endorsement.
Two members of Trump’s team told Bloomberg that they believe a formal endorsement from Ryan, the U.S. House speaker, is imminent. A Trump aide with knowledge of the call said the conversation was arranged days ago with the goal of resolving the current rift between the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and Ryan.
The real-estate developer and TV personality expected to focus the call on policy areas where he and Ryan are in agreement, but he has no plans to make significant changes to his policy platform, according to the Trump aide.
A spokesman for Ryan’s political team, Zack Roday, confirmed the call was scheduled for Wednesday night. A person familiar with the call confirmed it took place without elaborating on its content.
“The purpose of the call tonight is for the two of them to continue their conversation about unifying the party. We never gave any indication that the call was about an endorsement,” Roday told Bloomberg.
The standoff has turned into a significant complication for both Trump, who is trying to consolidate the party after a bruising primary, and for Ryan, who’s under pressure from both opponents and supporters of the combative real-estate mogul.
Earlier Wednesday, Ryan responded to reports that he had begun telling confidants he is ready to end his standoff with Trump, saying that he has not decided yet whether to endorse Trump.
"I have not made a decision," the House speaker told reporters. "We’re still having productive conversations."
The conflict began in early May when the speaker announced he was not yet ready to back the billionaire, a decision that Ryan now worries is exacerbating his party’s divisions, said two people close to the lawmaker.
Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort also told a small group of lawmakers last Thursday that he expects an endorsement from Ryan as early as this week, according to two people in the meeting.
Manafort told the gathering last week that Ryan’s backing would put added pressure on the party’s remaining holdouts to fall in line and endorse Trump. It would also link the speaker more directly to the billionaire, marking a significant break for a man who ran on a presidential ticket in 2012 with Mitt Romney -- by far Trump’s loudest critic inside the party.
On Wednesday, Ryan said he is still hearing input and suggestions from all sides.
"I think it’s important that we actually discuss the principles that we all share in common and the policies that come from them. And get a good understanding on bills," he said. "Our staffs talk virtually every day. We’re having good conversations."
Ryan has said that he doesn’t want a "fake unification," but the pair remain far apart on several significant policy issues, particularly free trade and immigration.
"There are clearly going to be policy disputes between Republicans," Ryan said Wednesday. "The point is can we operate off the common principles."
Behind the scenes over the past two weeks, Ryan and Trump aides have held a series of meetings on policy issues that could clear the way for Ryan’s endorsement.
Ryan’s chief of staff, David Hoppe, has been either attending or closely monitoring meetings away from Capitol Hill with Stephen Miller, a top Trump aide who used to work for Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, according to a person familiar with the meetings. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump.
The meetings have not yet involved other Republican congressional leadership offices. They are described by the person as a significant exchange of ideas, not just on broad political principles, but on individual issues and specific legislation.
Ryan said House Republicans will proceed next month with their plans to unveil a policy agenda for the coming year, which will include recommendations from six task forces.
"Now, we’re ready to start releasing them," Ryan said, noting that the first one, on poverty, should come out in early June. "This is an agenda for the next president."
Ryan was asked about a Republican health-care bill that was announced this week by Rules Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas, which does not completely repeal Obamacare.
Ryan said he did not know details, and that "there are a lot of bills out there."
"The point is, everybody should feel free to offer their ideas. That’s Congress. You’ll see our vision for repealing and replacing Obamacare as part of our agenda project in June when we roll it out," said Ryan.
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