Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell advised Donald Trump to condemn violence at his campaign rallies, in a phone call with the GOP presidential front-runner Tuesday.
“Donald Trump called this morning, had a good conversation. I appreciated his call,” McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters at his weekly Capitol news conference. “And I took the opportunity to recommend to him that no matter who may be triggering these violent expressions or conflicts that we’ve seen in some of these rallies, it might be a good idea to condemn that and discourage it, no matter what the source of it.”
Violence at Trump’s presidential campaign rallies reached a boiling point last week, when he cancelled a rally in Chicago due to security concerns triggered by fights between his supporters and anti-Trump protesters.
In his speeches, Trump has repeatedly suggested violence against protesters at his rallies, and said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that his staff was looking into paying the legal fees of a supporter who recently punched a protester in the face.
McConnell’s comments come as primary voters six states headed to the polls Tuesday. “I believe all candidates on both sides should be discouraging violence,” he said.
“That’s really big,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said of McConnell’s advice to Trump.
McConnell declined to comment on the GOP front-runner’s broader appeal or on Trump’s response to his suggestion. “I’ve already said all I’m going to say about the reaching out of Donald Trump to me,” McConnell said before walking away from the news conference.
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, questioned why Trump chose to host his rally at “what could be the most diverse urban campus in America: Univeristy of Illinois, Chicago.”
After McConnell’s comments, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, told a smaller group of reporters it should be no surprise presidential candidates would be reaching out to the Senate.
Cornyn said he had heard suggestions that Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas might come back to meet with the Senate Republican Conference.
McConnell did not delve into how the atmosphere in the presidential race could affect his party’s ability to maintain control of the Senate. Twenty-four Republicans are up for re-election in November, compared to 10 Democrats. Seven GOP candidates are running in states that swing Democratic in presidential years.
“We have more on defense this cycle than we were last cycle, obviously,” McConnell said. “We’re going to have a number of competitive races. We’re going to give it everything we’ve got.”
Speaker Paul D. Ryan also commented on violence at Trump’s rallies, condemning Democrats who were disrupting Republican campaign rallies. Ryan also said Republican candidates have to discourage violence their supporters have engaged in.
Last week, Ryan spoke with Trump and GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, about the House GOP agenda, according to Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong. He is expected to also speak with Republican presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich about the conference’s intent to present an agenda.
Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.
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