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Trump and Ryan: 'There's a great opportunity to unify our party'

They called their meeting "a very positive step toward unification" of the GOP despite ideological differences.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said that a closed-door meeting Thursday was "a very positive step toward unification" of the GOP despite ideological differences between the wings of the party represented by the two leaders.

The pair said in a joint statement that they plan to have "additional discussions" after an "honest" conversation that addressed both their policy differences and areas of common ground.

"We will be having additional discussions, but remain confident there's a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall, and we are totally committed to working together to achieve that goal," wrote Trump and Ryan, who has declined so far to wholeheartedly endorse the presumptive nominee of his party. "We are extremely proud of the fact that many millions of new voters have entered the primary system, far more than ever before in the Republican Party's history. This was our first meeting, but it was a very positive step toward unification."

Ryan indicated in a press conference that the joint statement did not amount to an endorsement of Trump, reiterating that the unification of the party will "take some time."

Trump tweeted that he had a "great day" in Washington and "things working out reall well," but did not address media before flying back home to New York City.

The House Speaker told reporters at least a half dozen times that he was "encouraged" by their conversation and that the pair discussed key issues like the Constitution, the separation of powers and executive overreach.

"I believe that we are planting the seeds of unity," he said.

"I don't want us to have a fake unification process here. I want to make sure that we really, truly understand each other."

In a tweet, Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus, who also attended the meeting at RNC headquarters, called it "a very positive step toward party unity."

And he told NBC News in an interview that the meeting was "positive" and "cooperative."

Priebus declined to address the policy specifics addressed in the meeting. But he stressed that Republican leaders were "caught off guard" by how fast Trump ultimately secured the nomination, suggesting that some officials need to time to adjust to the political climate now that Trump is the presumptive nominee.

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"People didn't think this thing was going to be over two weeks ago... I think it threw a few people off," he said.

Trump also met Thursday with top Republicans in the United States House, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, at RNC headquarters. He then huddled with high-ranking GOP senators, including Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, before heading to a final meetings at the law firm Jones Day, which represents his campaign.

"We had a very constructive meeting. I think that everybody felt it was quite good. And as I already indicated, I already endorsed him earlier," McConnell told reporters in a brief statement following the meeting.

Another insider told NBC's Kelly O'Donnell that the meetings included discussions of "topline principles" of the party, suggesting a focus on the foundational tenets of Republican policy.

Ryan caused waves last week when he said he is not yet ready to back Trump, even as many of his other Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill embraced Trump as their 2016 standard-bearer.

The differences between the wonky House Speaker and the brash billionaire go far beyond personality. Ryan has staked his career on conservative policies including sweeping entitlement reforms, while Trump has thumbed his nose at much of the traditional Republican Party policy orthodoxy in favor of a more populist vision.

HIllary Clinton's campaign jumped on the non-endorsement, releasing a statement that said Ryan "clearly wasn't swayed" by a candidate who would be "too big a risk."

But as Trump's day on Capitol Hill unfolded, some top Republicans said they were ready to embrace their presumptive nominee.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden, who is charged with spearheading the election of GOP members of Congress, said he would back Trump despite some reservations about his tone.

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"While I may disagree with the rhetoric Mr. Trump uses and some policy positions, he is the better option than Hillary Clinton in the White House," he said. "That's why all along I've said I intend to support the GOP nominee."

GOP Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma struck an optimistic note, telling NBC News Thursday morning that he believes Trump and Ryan could find plenty of common ideological ground.

"This is a chance for them to get to know each other, find where they have points in common," he said. "I think those exist."

But Cole also noted that his biggest concern about Trump is the candidate's "unpredictability," particularly when it comes to Republicans running in downballot races who will be asked to respond to Trump's rhetoric on the campaign trail.

"He's very much a work in progress as a candidate," he said of Trump.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, another top Republican, said Thursday that he is ready to embrace Trump -- with some caveats.

"Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee, I will do what I can to help him run a successful campaign," said Hatch, who previously endorsed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and then Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

But, he added: "Many constituents in my home state of Utah have serious reservations about Mr. Trump. To help unify the party and broaden his appeal, I hope Donald will listen to policymakers and carefully consider his approach to issues like international trade, religious liberty, and entitlement reform."

Moderate GOP Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania was more blunt, saying "Clearly the party's not in a good place right now, when many of the members are having a hard time rallying around the presumptive nominee. It's a tough spot." 

—NBC News' Alex Moe and Shaquille Brewster contributed reporting.

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