TURNAROUND: Donald Trump turns to face supporters in Tucson, Arizona.
TURNAROUND: Donald Trump turns to face supporters in Tucson, Arizona. Ross D Franklin

Trump seeks party unity

AMID continuing protests and violence at his campaign events, presidential frontrunner Donald Trump planned to host a meeting of top Republicans overnight to encourage the party to coalesce around his candidacy.

The closed-door conclave marks the first time the billionaire property developer has met with members of the party's establishment in Washington DC since September, when few believed he was likely to become the party's presidential nominee.

Those invited include members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as other influential figures - many of whom have not endorsed Mr Trump.

The meeting is intended to foster "party unity", The Washington Post reported.

So far Mr Trump has the backing of one US Senator - Arizona Republican and immigration hardliner Jeff Sessions - and a handful of House Republicans.

He has also been endorsed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the governors of Florida and Maine.

Yet the meeting comes days after another group of conservatives, the "Never Trump" group, huddled in Washington hoping to halt his rise.

Public opposition to Mr Trump continues to swell.

On Saturday, protesters blocked traffic approaching a rally near Phoenix, Arizona, forcing some Trump supporters to walk several kilometres to the event.

Meanwhile, a crowd of hundreds of immigrant-rights activists and anti-fascists converged on Trump Tower in New York.

Later on Saturday at a Trump rally in Tucson, a 32-year-old man was arrested after footage showed him punching and kicking a protester who was being led from the venue.

At the same rally, Mr Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and an unidentified man were caught on camera arguing with a young demonstrator.

Mr Lewandowski can be seen reaching for the collar of the protester, who is subsequently yanked backwards.

The Trump campaign said it was the unnamed man to Mr Lewandowski's left who had tugged at the protester's shirt, but Mr Lewandowski is already under scrutiny after being accused of grabbing a reporter by the arm at another event a week ago.

Mr Trump praised his campaign manager for his "spirit".

The billionaire, who has been accused of inciting violence at rallies, placed the blame for the incidents squarely on the protesters.

Republican primary voters go to the polls today in Arizona and Utah.

Mr Trump is more than 10 points ahead in Arizona, a winner-takes-all state with 58 delegates up for grabs.

His closest challenger, Ted Cruz, is likely to triumph in neighbouring Utah, according to a weekend poll.


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