UPDATE: Reports have surfaced that Cruz told reporters after the Trump summit on Thursday that Trump asked Cruz to speak at the Republican National Convention, and Cruz has accepted the speaking slot.
Cruz tells reporters that Trump has asked him to speak at the Convention and that he has accepted
— Alan He (@alanhe) July 7, 2016
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and his last vanquished primary rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) met today, with Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) headquarters on Capitol Hill as a potential Cruz endorsement of Trump looms.
The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker first reported the meeting on Twitter: “Donald Trump and Reince Priebus are meeting with Ted Cruz right now at NRSC HQ, possible endorsement deal, per source.”
Donald Trump and Reince Priebus are meeting with Ted Cruz right now at NRSC HQ, possible endorsement deal, per source.
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) July 7, 2016
The news comes as reports surfaced Thursday morning that Cruz has begun preparations for a potential 2020 presidential campaign.
“Ted Cruz has been conspicuously silent since his return to Capitol Hill from the campaign trail, but the gears, as always, are turning,” Eliana Johnson and Tim Alberta wrote in National Review Thursday. “Behind closed doors Cruz has been supervising the vast expansion of his electoral enterprise, integrating the operations of his campaign team — policy, political, financial — in an effort to harness his newfound national following with an eye on 2020.”
Cruz, in the wake of a rough presidential primary with Trump that oftentimes got very personal in both directions, has thus far refused to back Trump in the general election against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton. His spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told Breitbart News on Thursday in response to the National Review piece detailing his planned 2020 campaign that Cruz is not yet willing to back the Republican nominee for president—despite a pledge to do so last summer—even though Trump is the only person who can beat Hillary Clinton in November.
“As Cruz has said, he is watching and listening and will take time before he makes a decision,” Frazier said in an email.
Sources told Breitbart News that Priebus played a key role going “all out” as peacemaker inside.
Cruz’s team, in a statement after the meeting, called it a “good meeting” but said an endorsement was not discussed.
“Sen. Cruz and Donald Trump had a good meeting this morning,” Cruz’s team said in a statement. “There was no discussion of any endorsement. Mr. Trump asked Sen. Cruz to speak at the Republican convention, and Sen. Cruz said he would be happy to do so. Mr. Trump also asked Sen. Cruz for his counsel on future judicial nominations, and Cruz responded he would continue to do everything he can to help ensure principled constitutionalists on the courts.”
Sources familiar with the details of the goings on in the meeting say that attendees were Trump, Cruz, Priebus, Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, Ivanka’s husband and Trump confidante Jared Kushner, Cruz’s campaign manager Jeff Roe, Trump’s convention manager and top aide Paul Manafort and RNC chief of staff Katie Walsh. In the meeting, which one source described as a “very good meeting,” Trump and Cruz agreed to stop working against each other on political matters. They agreed, also, to work together on policy and political matters where they agree, and Trump asked for Cruz’s help on selecting judicial nominations–something Cruz agreed to help Trump with.
Also in the meeting, Trump did not ask Cruz for an endorsement–the source said–and Cruz did not offer one. But Trump did offer Cruz a convention speaking slot, something Cruz accepted on the spot. This source described the meeting as a “productive mending of fences” between Cruz and Trump after the tumultuous primary.
The meeting comes after Alice Stewart, Cruz’s former communications director, pitched the possibility of Cruz as vice president during an Independence Day appearance on CNN. Trump has yet to select a running mate.
But, as the National Review piece detailed on Thursday, Cruz has launched two new organizational arms—a 501(c)3 and a 501(c)4—designed for his future. His chief of staff Paul Teller also is leaving his Senate office to lead the organizations, all while a new chief of staff David Polyansky will take over his Senate office.
“Central to these plans is the creation of two new affiliated nonprofits, their names to be announced in the coming days, which will effectively keep Cruz’s political machinery humming over the next four years,” Johnson and Alberta reported. “These groups, one a 501(c)3 and the other a 501(c)4, will be responsible for everything from championing Cruz’s legislative priorities to maintaining his donor database and coordinating his early-state travel. They will be an outgrowth of Cruz’s existing campaign apparatus, the nucleus of which has remained active in the aftermath of his departure from the race on May 3.”
Johnson and Alberta continued by noting that these political future plans Cruz has launched “have scrambled the pecking order inside the senator’s orbit” as Polyansky—who was “a political strategist who was senior adviser to the presidential campaign” takes over as Chief of Staff while Teller “will be departing to serve as senior adviser to the nonprofit groups.”
“Mark Campbell, the national political director of Cruz’s presidential campaign, will serve as executive director and board chairman of the organizations,” Johnson and Alberta wrote. “Bryan English, who served as Cruz’s Iowa-state director, and Brian Phillips, who ran the campaign’s rapid-response communications from Houston, will also join the allied groups, which Campbell says are intended to build on the movement inspired by the Cruz campaign, educating and mobilizing ‘grassroots leaders as to the importance of conservative principles.’ The new operation will launch with roughly half a dozen staffers working remotely, though Cruz officials expect eventually to have offices in Washington and Texas. With the exception of Teller, who will join from Cruz’s Senate office, the organizations’ staffers will consist entirely of aides from the senator’s presidential campaign.”
So essentially what Cruz has done is roll his entire presidential campaign—or as much of it as he could keep together—into a hibernation designed to lay and wait for 2020. If Cruz ends up backing Trump for president—and fights for him every step of the way—and Trump loses, then Cruz won’t get the blame for Hillary Clinton winning. But if Cruz stays a bitter loser, and refuses to back Trump in November and doesn’t fight for him, then Cruz will—along with other Republicans—bear much of the brunt of Trump’s loss.
For what it’s worth, Frazier also challenges the way the National Review framed the creation of these organizations—saying they are not in preparation for 2020 but instead “natural progressions” of a post-campaign Cruz.
“It is correct that a c3 and c4 have been created and that Cruz has named a new chief of staff after the former went to go work for one of those groups,” Frazier said in an email. “All very natural progressions in the aftermath of a presidential campaign.”
Of course, all of that calculating for 2020 changes should Trump shock all of his detractors and win in November. Most of the rest of the Republican Party has come around to backing Trump for president, and Cruz remains one of the few lasting detractors. If Cruz gets on board, Trump will be able to legitimately claim he has unified the Republican Party and move on to take down Hillary Rodham Clinton in November.