Republican leaders’ frustration with Donald Trump mounted Wednesday following a series of startling statements from the GOP nominee, including his refusal to endorse House speaker Paul Ryan’s re-election. But there was no evidence GOP officials were backing off their support of Trump in the White House race.
Party chair Reince Priebus, a close friend of Ryan, is deeply irritated by Trump’s recent actions and his unwillingness to listen to the advice of senior advisers. Priebus has been speaking with campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the billionaire’s children, who are said to agree that Trump needs to stop picking fights within his own party, according to a Republican official with knowledge of the conversations.
Priebus and the Trump confidants, as well as numerous GOP lawmakers, have been particularly irked by the candidate’s repeated criticism of an American Muslim family whose son, a US Army captain, was killed in Iraq.
Trump on Wednesday dismissed suggestions that the GOP frustration was hurting his campaign. He wrote on Twitter: “There is great unity in my campaign, perhaps greater than ever before. I want to thank everyone for your tremendous support. Beat Crooked H!” — a reference to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump stunned Republicans by telling The Washington Post in an interview Tuesday that he wasn’t ready to endorse Ryan, who faces a primary contest in Wisconsin next week. Ryan has backed Trump despite deep differences on policy and temperament, and has encouraged other Republicans to unite behind the party’s nominee.
Trump’s latest comments come on the heels of his criticism of Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son was killed in Iraq in 2004. Trump has said he himself was “viciously attacked” by the Khans, who appeared at last week’s Democratic convention and challenged the Republican’s fitness to be commander in chief.
Former Trump adviser Barry Bennett acknowledged signs of poor morale among the campaign staff he maintains contact with, but said it would be silly dismiss Trump’s chances with three months before Election Day.
“This would be the end of any other Republican candidate in the history of the country. And he’s only 5 or 6 points behind,” Bennett said.