Trump, meeting with the Teamsters, denies criticizing possible border deal over politics

(WASHINGTON) — Former President Donald Trump is making a push to shore up support from a historically Democratic voting bloc: union workers.

On Wednesday, Trump met with members of the Teamsters union’s leadership as well as rank-and-file members in a roundtable discussion at their headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The group, which represents 1.3 million workers including technicians, film and television workers and law enforcement officials, has yet to endorse in the 2024 election but backed President Joe Biden in 2020.

Speaking with reporters after the closed-door meeting, Trump said he had a “productive” meeting with the union.

“We had a very strong meeting with the Teamsters,” he said, adding that he’s employed thousands of Teamsters union workers and that he’s had “great relationships” with Teamsters leadership including President Sean O’Brien, praising them as “great leaders.

Trump stopped short of saying he expects an immediate endorsement, as “they never do that,” but still expressed confidence: “I think we have a good shot at them.”

The former president was also asked about other topics, including a recent $83 million defamation award against him after a jury found last year that he had sexually assaulted the writer E. Jean Carroll. He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has vowed to appeal.

Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Trump dodged a question about whether he’d use his campaign money to pay for the defamation award or for potential penalties incurred in a New York civil fraud case, again maintaining his innocence and attacking judges in the cases.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.

Trump separately also dismissed the idea that he was against a potential border and immigration bill being negotiated by members of both parties on Capitol Hill because it would give Biden and Democrats “a win.”

“I just want to see a great bill. This isn’t Republican or Democrat,” he insisted.

The Teamsters had extended an invite to all presidential candidates to meet with them; however, Trump said it would be a “waste” of their time to meet with his Republican challenger Nikki Haley.

Haley doesn’t appear to be meeting with the Teamsters but did put out a news release on Wednesday suggesting Trump shared Teamsters’ political views. A spokeswoman said he “is looking more like Joe Biden every day.”

Biden was also invited to a “rank-and-file roundtable” with the union, but sources have told ABC News that they’re still working on scheduling.

“The President looks forward to meeting with the Teamsters and earning their endorsement,” a Biden campaign spokesperson said.

The meeting between Trump and Teamsters comes on the heels of a major endorsement for Biden from the United Auto Workers union alongside a scathing criticism of Trump by UAW President Shawn Fain, who last week called the former president a “scab” and a representative for billionaires over the working class.

Trump shot back at Fain, accusing him of failing to represent autoworkers and selling out the industry to China. Trump repeated his criticism Wednesday, accusing the UAW of making a “terrible decision” by allowing electric cars to be made in China.

Despite UAW’s endorsement of Biden, Trump after his meeting with Teamsters still attempted to court autoworkers, doubling down on his plans to raise tariffs on foreign countries to “bring jobs back to the United States.”

Trump has been attempting to court union workers since early in the campaign cycle as he looks to focus on a potential general election matchup with Biden.

In September, Trump counter-programmed the second Republican primary debate with a speech in Michigan focused on painting himself as the only candidate fighting for the working class when auto workers went on strike.

However, though billed as a speech to union workers, Trump’s remarks took place at a non-union auto parts plant. One day earlier, Biden joined striking auto workers on the picket line in Michigan.

During his first presidential bid, union workers and blue-collar voters served as a boost for Trump and as one of the key factors in Rust Belt and Midwestern states flipping red in 2016, including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

He has since received mixed reviews from unions and their members — an increasingly divided voting group — with some believing he’s bringing back jobs for union workers while some others say Trump as president made pro-business decisions that undid protections for workers.

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