First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Three questions heading into this morning’s Ryan-Trump meeting
At 9:00 am ET at the Republican National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump will meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan -- after Ryan refused to endorse Trump last week (at least for now). "What we are trying to do is to be as constructive as possible, to have a real unification," Ryan told reporters yesterday, per NBC’s Andrew Rafferty. "To pretend we're unified without actually unifying, then we go into the fall at half strength," he added. "This election is too important to go into an election at half strength." There are three questions we have heading into this morning’s meeting:
- Does Ryan end up endorsing? That we’re even asking this question is an extraordinary development. Just think if then-House Speaker John Boehner had withheld an endorsement -- even for a week -- for Mitt Romney after he became the party’s presumptive nominee in 2012. Or if Nancy Pelosi had done the same to do Barack Obama in ‘08 after his own bruising campaign vs. Hillary Clinton.
- Does Ryan remain chair of the GOP convention in July? It’s hard to see that happening if Ryan continues to withhold his endorsement. And Ryan recently gave Trump an out here, saying that the GOP’s presumptive nominee is free to pick a new convention chair. "He's the nominee. I'll do whatever he wants with respect to the convention," Ryan said earlier this week.
- Is Ryan making a play beyond this November? That is one of the theories why he’s not eager to jump on the Trump Train – either to help pick up the pieces if Republicans lose in November, or to get a head start on the next presidential election. “He and his staff play down talk of a 2020 run for the White House, but how Mr. Ryan manages Mr. Trump over the next six months will play a major role in shaping Mr. Ryan’s future,” the New York Times writes. “Many of his colleagues are uneasy about Mr. Trump and grateful that the speaker is at least buying them time to determine how to handle the political equivalent of a live grenade.”
Tension inside the House GOP
Meanwhile, NBC’s Alex Moe reported that, according to a source inside yesterday’s House GOP conference meeting, six House members stood up during the open mic period to express their frustration with Ryan's comments about not being able to support Donald Trump as the nominee at this point. Members said they were blindsided by the speaker's announcement and that it puts them in a hard spot in their districts; they are feeling pressure to choose between the speaker and the presumptive nominee. A couple other members, however, stood up and voiced support for Ryan's comments. At least one of these members is up for reelection in a district where having Trump at the top of the ticket would be damaging. The source says the conference is definitely divided.
Trouble in Sanders Land?
Despite his back-to-back wins in Indiana and West Virginia, MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald reports that Bernie Sanders’ campaign is heading into next month’s final contests -- especially California on June 7 -- in a “hobbled” state. Per Seitz-Wald, “The campaign parted ways with its former California State director, Michael Ceraso, this week. No reason was given for the departure, but a spokesperson said the campaign feels "great" with their new director, Robert Becker, who has run several states for Sanders. Meanwhile, Sanders officials say they ‘probably’ won't spend more on television advertising in the notoriously expensive state, which some California political experts say is virtually a declaration of surrender.” More: “In Kentucky, which votes Tuesday, Sanders' campaign is reusing two old ads and letting himself be outspent by Clinton's campaign $178,000 to $93,000, according to ad tracking data from NBC News partner SMG Delta. Sanders' online fundraising machine has in the past allowed him to outspend Clinton in almost every contest he wanted to. But there are increasingly signs that that once seemingly bottomless well of donations is drying up.”
Harry Reid vs. Alan Grayson
Here's one more dispatch from MSNBC's Alex Seitz-Wald: “During a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill Wednesday, liberal firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson angrily confronted Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid over the senator's decision to back a different candidate in Florida's Senate race, according to three sources in the room. Reid fired back by expressing his ‘low opinion’ of Grayson.”
On the trail
Bernie Sanders campaigns in South Dakota… And Bill Clinton stumps for his wife in Kentucky.