Trump returns to Capitol Hill for first time since Jan. 6 riots

President Donald Trump (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Gordon/Released)

Donald Trump made a triumphant return to Capitol Hill on Thursday, just two weeks after being convicted on felony crimes in a New York City courtroom. 

He was met with a rousing response from GOP lawmakers, meeting with House and Senate Republicans for the first time since urging a mob to "fight like hell" ahead of the Jan.6, 2021 attack. GOP lawmakers find themselves newly energized and reinvigorated by his bid to retake the White House.

Despite the federal charges against Trump for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, and his recent guilty verdict in an unrelated hush money trial, the Republican former president arrived emboldened as the party’s presumptive nominee. He has successfully purged the GOP of critics, silenced most skeptics and enticed once-critical lawmakers aboard his MAGA-fueled campaign.

A packed room of House Republicans sang "Happy Birthday" to Trump in the private breakfast meeting at GOP campaign headquarters across the street from the Capitol. The lawmakers gave him a baseball and bat from the annual congressional game.

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"We’re excited to welcome President Trump back," said House Speaker Mike Johnson a day earlier.

The Republican speaker had demurred over whether he’s asked Trump to respect the peaceful transfer of presidential power and commit to not doing another Jan. 6. "Of course he respects that, we all do, and we’ve all talked about it, ad nauseum."

Trump told Johnson Thursday he thinks the speaker is doing a "terrific job," according to a Republican in the private meeting and granted anonymity to discuss it. Trump asked Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the speaker’s chief Republican critic, if she was being nice to Johnson, another Republican said.

Trump is expected to be delivering remarks and discussing issues animating his campaign — including mass immigration deportations but also tax cuts and other priorities for a potential second term. 

Many potential priorities for a new White House administration are being formulated by a constellation of outside groups, including Project 2025, that are laying the groundwork for executive and legislative actions, though Trump has made clear he has his own agenda.

But the private meetings with House and later in the afternoon Senate Republicans so close to the Capitol are infused with symbolism of Trump’s return as the U.S. president who threatened the American tradition of the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

"It’s frustrating," said former U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who made his own unsuccessful run for Congress as a Maryland Democrat in the aftermath of Jan. 6, when police engaged in hand-to-hand fighting to stop Trump supporters who stormed the building trying to overturn President Joe Biden’s election.

Dunn spoke of the "irony" of Trump returning to the area and lawmakers now embracing him. "It just shows the lack of backbone they have when they’re truly putting party and person over country," he said. "And it’s sad."