Haslam still not prepared to endorse Trump after meeting
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam still isn’t ready to endorse Donald Trump after a New York meeting he helped organize with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
Haslam told reporters Wednesday that he and other governors spoke to Trump about issues important to the states — like education, health care and the economy — and that endorsements were “never even talked about.”
Haslam said Trump’s statements about Muslims in the wake of the Orlando shootings that left 49 people dead was a not a focus of the discussion.
“It’s no secret that there have been things that I haven’t agreed with. It’s also no secret that he’s not who my first pick was,” said Haslam, who endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio before Tennessee’s March 1 primary won by Trump.
“But I appreciate him sitting down and talking with us,” Haslam said. “It’s a long road between here and November. There’ll be a lot of twists and turns.”
Other Republican governors joining Haslam at the meeting were Phil Bryant of Mississippi, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Doug Ducey of Arizona and Chris Christie of New Jersey.
Trump has been criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike for repeating his call to temporarily bar foreign Muslims from entering the country and calling for a suspension of immigration from areas of the world with a proven history of terrorism against the U.S. and its allies.
Haslam said he also opposed that stance.
“Do I disagree that we need to ban all Muslims from entering the country? Yes, I disagree with that strongly,” he said.
Republican U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee appeared to distance themselves from Trump after those comments.
“I continue to be discouraged by the direction of the campaign and comments that are made,” said Corker, who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Trump’s address was not “the type of speech that one would give that wants to lead this country through difficult times.”
Alexander went so far as to suggest Trump might not end up as the party’s nominee after all.
“We do not have a nominee until after the convention,” Alexander said. Reminded that Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee, Alexander retorted, “That’s what you say.”
Asked why more of Tuesday’s meeting didn’t focus on Trump’s outspoken comments, Haslam said that that wasn’t the point of the gathering.
“We got to sit down with one of the two people who probably are going to be the next president of the United States. There’s about 1,000 things you could talk about, right?” Haslam said. “I went because there’s certain issues that are of primary importance to me as a governor — that’s why we set it up.”