After harsh campaign words, Trump reaching out to ex-rivals

WASHINGTON (AP) - After months rehashing the GOP primary campaign and bragging about his victory, President Donald Trump has begun reaching out to former rivals whose help he now needs.

The latest on his list is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has said he has significant concerns about the health care bill Trump wants Congress to pass.

The president and first lady hosted Cruz and his wife, Heidi, and their two daughters for dinner Wednesday night - a day after Trump had lunch with South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, a onetime challenger.

"It was terrific. It was a social evening we had a very nice evening with the president and the first lady with Heidi and the girls," Cruz said. He tweeted a photo of his daughters standing next to the president in the Oval Office, and put out this caption: "Our family had dinner w the President & First Lady, who were warm & gracious. Catherine brought Joe--her kindergarten class stuffed giraffe!"

Trump gave Florida Sen. Marco Rubio an Air Force One ride to his home state last week and invited Rubio and his wife for dinner at the White House. Trump met recently with Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, had Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., and his wife over for Valentine's Day meatloaf, and had a working lunch with Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis.

All those politicians had competed with Trump for the Republican presidential nomination.

The meetings come as Trump continues to make unsupported charges against former President Barack Obama. That's alienated a potential source of White House guidance as Trump turns his focus toward selling a legislative agenda that he'll need every possible ally to pass.

It help explains his wooing of ex-rivals such as Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, whom Trump has spoken to several times since taking office, said Paul's spokesman Sergio Gor.

But the 2016 GOP campaign was harsh, and that's led to some awkward interactions.

As a candidate, Trump gave Cruz the nickname 'Lyin' Ted,' questioned the senator's faith and suggested Cruz's father may have been involved in John F. Kennedy's assassination. Trump also went after Cruz's wife.

Cruz responded by calling Trump "a sniveling coward," a "pathological liar" and "utterly amoral." Cruz declined to endorse Trump in his Republican Convention speech.

White house Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday the president enjoyed welcoming the Cruzes to the White House.

"They had a very enjoyable time and a very fruitful discussion," Spicer said, adding that it was something the president "is going to continue to do with members of both parties, both chambers, and not just here in Washington."

Cruz told reporters the dinner "was terrific" and he talked about how excited his daughter had been to bring along her students' stuffed giraffe.

"So Joe had a chance to have dinner with the president which was a fun thing for Catherine and we had a very pleasant evening but also discussed a lot of substance," he said.

Trump has in the past marveled at politicians' abilities to move on, even after brutal election campaigns.

"It's a very strange phenomenon," he recently told Fox News, describing his ability to get along with Obama, despite their nasty election rivalry as Obama campaigned on behalf of Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"What amazed me is that I was vicious to him in statements, he was vicious to me in statements, and here we are getting along, we're riding up Pennsylvania Avenue, talk - we don't even mention it," he said. "I guess that's the world of politics."

Trump's latest unsupported claim on Twitter that Obama ordered wiretaps on Trump has apparently chilled those relations.

Even Graham, one of Trump's fiercest critics during the primary, seems to agree with the idea of moving past the campaign rhetoric.

After their lunch, Graham praised Trump, saying he was "strongly committed to rebuilding our military, which is music to my ears. President Trump is in deal-making mode and I hope Congress is like-minded."

Graham also appeared to forgive the president for once reading out Graham's personal cellphone number to a rally crowd.

"How good was the meeting? I gave him my NEW cellphone number," Graham tweeted.

Still, there is one rival candidate who has yet to break bread with the president: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. While Bush has been in touch with members of the Trump administration, spokeswoman Kristy Campbell says he has no immediate plans to dine with Trump.


AP Congressional Correspondent Erica Werner contributed to this report.