RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called Donald Trump on Wednesday evening
Trump said Priebus was "congratulatory" but asked him to tone down his public remarks
Donald Trump is pushing back against reports that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus voiced concerns to him about the billionaire’s tone when talking about undocumented immigrants during a Wednesday phone call.
Trump instead told CNN on Thursday the call had a “congratulatory” tone – but conceded that Priebus suggested he “tone it down a little bit.”
“He did say, ‘you know, you could keep it down a little bit, but you can’t change your personality and I understand that.’ It was really a nice call, a congratulatory call,” Trump told CNN.
Trump said Priebus congratulated him on his surge in the polls, telling Trump that he’s “literally not seen anything like this.”
The RNC declined comment on Thursday on Trump’s version of events.
The Washington Post first reported Priebus’ phone call to Trump.
A Republican source familiar with the call told CNN on Wednesday that Priebus expressed his concern to Trump during the call and that they discussed a range of topics.
“Look, I’ve gotta tell you, I spent four years trying to make inroads with the Hispanic community … how we address illegal immigration is very important,” to winning back Hispanics politically, Priebus said at the end of the call, according to the GOP source.
Trump first told CNN he may have brought up the issue of immigration himself, mentioning the San Francisco shooting at the hands of an illegal immigrant. The bombastic businessman also insisted he would “win the Hispanic vote” because he will create the most jobs of any presidential candidate.
And Trump gave an emphatic “no” when asked if his comments hurt the GOP’s efforts to make inroads with Hispanic voters.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump tweeted that the media had “totally false reporting” on his call with Priebus, suggesting the RNC chief didn’t suggest toning down his immigration remarks.
“He called me, ten minutes, said I hit a “nerve”, doing well, end!” Trump tweeted.
But a source said on Wednesday night that Priebus was returning a message from Trump, who sits second in the race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, according to recent national polling. The source said Priebus did not initiate the call to chastise the billionaire reality TV star.
“They had a respectful discussion across a wide range of issues including illegal immigration,” Sean Spicer, an RNC spokesman, told CNN on Wednesday.
Donald Trump in the public eye
During Trump’s announcement speech he – now infamously – talked about Mexican undocumented immigrants being “rapists “and “criminals.”
In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney won only 27% of the Hispanic vote after using harsh terms during the GOP primary like self-deportation.
After that stinging loss, Priebus commissioned a so-called autopsy to analyze how Republicans could re-capture the White House. The subsequent report said Republicans must change their language and approach in the Hispanic community in order to win over voters.
Another top Republican distanced himself from Trump on Thursday: House Speaker John Boehner.
“I disagree with Mr. Trump’s comments,” Boehner said Thursday at his weekly press conference. “When you look at the presidential candidates, they’ve all pretty well made their position clear (on immigration).”
Boehner, who has been repeatedly thwarted by his own party on efforts to move immigration reform legislation said, “This has become the biggest political football I’ve seen in my Congressional career. This whole issue of illegal immigration and what to do about it.”
CNN’s Dana Bash, Deirdre Walsh and Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.