WASHINGTON — Donald Trump visited the nation's capital Monday to seek peace with skeptical groups of traditional Republicans and Jewish voters, and predicted he would soon have the 1,237 convention delegates needed to clinch the Republican presidential nomination.
"We should make it pretty easily based on what I'm seeing," Trump told reporters after meeting with a group of current and former Republican lawmakers.
At the news conference, Trump said he has drawn new voters to the Republican Party, and "if people want to be smart, they should embrace this movement."
Trump said he wanted to "start getting together" with Republican leaders, and said that one of the officials who has endorsed him — Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama — organized a meeting of lawmakers past and present, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Former Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., whose bid to replace Gingrich as speaker in 1998 ran aground after revelations of an extra-marital affair, formally endorsed Trump after the meeting. In between that meeting and an address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Trump showed reporters the ongoing construction of his new hotel in downtown Washington, about four blocks from the White House along Pennsylvania Avenue. Construction and hotel service employees stood behind Trump as he spoke.
Trump's visit to Washington, D.C., came just a day before Republican convention delegate contests in Utah and Arizona.
Some Republicans have vowed to never support Trump, saying he is not a true conservative and that his economic and foreign policy proposals are dangerous.
Trump has a sizable lead in delegates to the party convention in July, but does not yet have a majority. Opponents Ted Cruz and John Kasich, as well as various anti-Trump groups, are working to deny the New York businessman a majority on a first ballot, which would allow delegates to switch votes on a second ballot.
Earlier in the day during a meeting with the Washington Post editorial board, Trump named five people who advise him on foreign policy. The group is chaired by Sessions and includes: Keith Kellogg, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Walid Phares and Joseph E. Schmitz, according to the Post.
Trump told the Post that the U.S. may have to reduce its commitments to NATO, saying "we certainly can’t afford to do this anymore." He also said, "NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money."
In his news conference, Trump suggested that Israel and other allies may have to pay more of the tab for national defense currently being financed by the United States.
Some Jewish voters have criticized Trump for pledging to stay "neutral" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict— a statement that Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton cited in her speech Monday to AIPAC.
Clinton said Trump has been neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and "who knows what on Wednesday, because everything's negotiable." She added: "Well, my friends, Israel's security is non-negotiable." The former secretary of State also said Trump is appealing to bigotry with his pledges to bar the entry of non-Muslims into the country, to deport migrants who are in the country illegally, and "playing coy with white supremacists."
Responding to the criticism, Trump said Clinton's Middle East policies "haven't worked," and "she doesn't know anything about my policy."