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Trump criticizes Ukraine aid, talks tax cuts and tariffs with Republicans

REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID/FILE PHOTO
                                Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump gestures during a campaign event, in Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 9.
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REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID/FILE PHOTO

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump gestures during a campaign event, in Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 9.

WASHINGTON >> Donald Trump today criticized U.S. aid to Ukraine, urged Republican lawmakers to cut taxes on gratuities and talked up tariffs in a visit to Capitol Hill, participants said, as he sought to build party unity ahead of the Nov. 5 election.

In a closed-door meeting, Trump said he would work to expand the party’s narrow 218-213 House of Representatives majority and help re-elect even the two remaining Republican House members who voted to impeach him after the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.

Trump also encouraged House Republicans not to push a national ban on abortion and encouraged them to abandon the inter-party squabbling that has hobbled their effectiveness, lawmakers said.

“We have to plan to lead because there’s so many problems to fix,” House Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters afterward.

Trump was due to meet Senate Republicans for lunch to discuss campaign strategies.

Trump and Democratic President Joe Biden each enjoyed unified governments during their first two years in office, but saw their parties lose control of the House during midterm elections, which impeded their ability to pass legislation.

The Republican presidential candidate is also due to speak today to the Business Roundtable, a Washington, D.C.-based association of more than 200 corporate chief executives.

Republicans hope to see Trump defeat Biden, extend their current razor-thin House majority and take control of a Senate that Democrats currently lead 51-49.

Trump urged lawmakers to cut taxes on income from tips, an idea he first floated on Sunday to appeal to service workers.

Trump criticized a $60-billion aid package for Ukraine that recently passed with Republican support, lawmakers said.

“He’s like, if Ukraine wins, what will be the benefit?” Republican Representative Don Bacon told reporters.

Bacon said Trump voiced support for tariffs on Chinese goods.

“He just said tariffs are a strong tool for the executive branch. And you can use it in your negotiations with China and get concessions.”

Hard-line Republican Representative Matt Gaetz said Trump voiced support for tariffs to protect the U.S. steel industry.

Trump used tariffs aggressively during his 2017-2021 term in office, placing levies of up to 25% on a wide range of Chinese products as one of many efforts to thwart competition.

Trump told Republicans that they should allow states to set their own policies on abortion, rather than push for a nationwide ban following the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision that ended the nationwide guarantee of abortion access. Many in the party want to outlaw the procedure entirely.

“He reiterated he thought that was the right decision, that some states will do one thing and some states will do another,” Republican Representative French Hill told reporters.

Trump also encouraged far-right Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who led an unsuccessful effort to oust Johnson, to work constructively with him, lawmakers said.

OLD GRIEVANCES

Democrats said Trump was not welcome on Capitol Hill after his false claims of fraud following his 2020 election defeat inspired the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

“After inciting a deadly insurrection that defiled the halls of Congress, how dare Trump show his face on these grounds?” Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson said in a statement.

The visit also put a spotlight on longstanding tensions between Trump and members of Congress, including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has not spoken to the former president since he acknowledged Biden’s election victory in December 2020.

Despite their differences, McConnell emphasized his support for Trump’s candidacy on Wednesday.

Others, including moderates such as Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, will not attend, citing scheduling conflicts.

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