Donald Trump is quietly making overtures to a Republican Party establishment that remains deeply leery of his insurgent presidential campaign.
Coming off a night where he won three of four Republican election contests, Trump said Wednesday that he had a "smart" and "conciliatory" discussion this week with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and he believes the two have respect for each other.
"We get along well. I like him a lot. I respect him a lot," Trump said of Ryan, during an appearance on CNN. "I think he respects me. I think he really does respect what I’ve done."
Ryan, whose staff acknowledged the telephone call earlier this week, has tried to remain aloof from the nomination battle, but the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee has indirectly criticized Trump twice in the past few months.
Until now, most Republicans in Congress have remained deeply skeptical, even alarmed, by the prospect of Trump as their party’s nominee. Trump’s controversial statements about banning Muslims from the U.S. and his slowness in disavowing the support of white supremacists have particularly troubled Republican senators and House members running for re-election this year.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he hadn’t yet spoken with Trump, but that the candidate’s conversation with Ryan was appropriate.
"That’s just fine that he’s done that," McConnell said. "I think what the speaker is trying to do by developing a platform, something we’re in discussion with him, the agenda, is a good idea. And I’m glad.”
Ryan has said that he wants to use the House this year to chart a course for conservative policies that could be implemented under a Republican president.