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

Former president and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is applauded by Republicans at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters in Washington, Thursday, in his first public Capitol Hill visit since Jan. 6, 2021.

Former president and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is applauded by Republicans at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters in Washington, Thursday, in his first public Capitol Hill visit since Jan. 6, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)


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WASHINGTON — Donald Trump criticized U.S. aid to Ukraine, urged his fellow Republicans to cut taxes on gratuities and talked up tariffs on a Thursday visit to Capitol Hill where he also called the city hosting his party's presidential convention "horrible."

In separate meetings with Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate, Trump sought to mend divisions ahead of the Nov. 5 election that could see his party win control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Participants said he shook hands with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, despite their frosty relationship, and encouraged hard-line Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene to "be nice" to House Speaker Mike Johnson, after her failed attempt to depose him.

"There's tremendous unity in the Republican Party," Trump said after the Senate meeting.

But Republicans scrambled to explain after several media outlets reported that Trump privately called Milwaukee a "horrible" city, roughly one month before he is due to receive his party's presidential nomination there.

That could potentially alienate residents of the biggest city in Wisconsin, one of a handful of competitive states that will determine the outcome of the election.

A campaign spokesman and several Republican lawmakers said Trump was referring to the city's problems with crime and vote fraud. A nonpartisan audit of the 2020 election in Wisconsin found no evidence of irregularities.

Memories of Jan. 6

Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, fueled by his false claims that his defeat was the result of fraud. Thursday's visit was his first public appearance on Capitol Hill since that day and Democrats said he was not welcome back.

"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.

Republican lawmakers said Trump told them he would work to expand the party's narrow 218-213 House majority and take control of a Senate that Democrats currently lead 51-49.

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

It was Trump's first face to face meeting with McConnell since the Jan. 6 attack. The two had not spoken since a few weeks before then, when McConnell affirmed Biden's 2020 victory. Two moderate Republican senators, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, skipped the event.

Tips and tariffs

Trump urged lawmakers to cut taxes on income from tips, an idea he first floated on Sunday to appeal to service workers and voiced support for tariffs on Chinese goods and to protect the U.S. steel industry, multiple lawmakers said.

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.

Senator Mike Rounds said that cutting taxes on tips could help Republicans with working-class voters.

"These are the folks you really want to help. I think everybody recognizes that these folks have a real challenge and they work hard for the tips they get," Rounds told reporters. "If there was something we could do to really energize that particular segment of the population, that might be a real popular thing to do."

Biden's support among voters without college degrees or living in households earning $50,000 a year or less has fallen sharply, Reuters/Ipsos polling shows, though large numbers of those voters have not shifted their support to Trump.

Trump also 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.

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 spoke to the Business Roundtable, an association of more than 200 corporate chief executives.

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Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrectionRussia-UkrainePoliticsU.S.
David Morgan and Andy Sullivan

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