WILKES-BARRE — When Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, became one of the first members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, he went against both the Washington establishment and his own party.
Now, Trump has asked Barletta to write a policy paper on illegal immigration. And a Washington Post story claims Barletta is one of Trump’s “most trusted” members of Congress.
“I was one of the first to come out and support Trump before it was popular,” Barletta said. “As a result, (U.S. Rep.) Tom Marino and I were appointed co-chairs of Trump’s campaign in Pennsylvania. His victory in the Pennsylvania Primary was big for him overall and pivotal in Trump going on to secure the nomination.”
Barletta said Trump’s campaign feels a Pennsylvania victory in the November General Election could mean the difference in Trump winning the White House.
In an email, Jon Anzur, Barletta’s campaign manager, said The Washington Post recently published an article naming Barletta and Marino as two of Trump’s most trusted members of Congress.
From The Post story: “Trump insiders say both men’s endorsements were crucial in helping Trump win Pennsylvania in April. That night, you’ll recall, was Trump’s five-state sweep in the Northeastern primary and seemingly the beginning of the end of the Republican nominating contests.
“Barletta is an immigration hard-liner who likes Trump’s idea to build a wall and Marino, who represents a conservative, more rural section of northeastern Pennsylvania, told the online publication Politico endorsing Trump was ‘one of my life-changing moments.’”
The Post story said “Trump’s early endorsers are playing a pivotal role in helping the nominee expand his appeal in Washington. They even hold weekly strategy meetings with Trump’s campaign (that have become standing-room only) to talk policy and politics.”
Barletta said the group meets weekly with Trump’s top campaign people in Washington.
“When we first started, we could have held those meetings in a phone booth,” he said Monday. “Now, we need a bigger room” as 30 to 40 members of Congress attend the meetings.
“They’re starting to rally around Trump,” he said. “Once it became obvious that he would be the Republican nominee, it became safer to affiliate with him.”
Barletta said he knew endorsing Trump would not be popular with GOP leadership and there could be repercussions.
“And now I’ve been asked to write a policy paper on illegal immigration,” Barletta said. “I will be giving it to him soon.”
Barletta said Trump has not made any promises to him, nor has he asked for any favors.
Barletta said illegal immigration has been his top priority since before he was elected to Congress.
“Nobody in Washington has done anything to address this,” Barletta said. “I believe Trump will.”
Barletta feels Trump appreciates how difficult it was for him to go against Republican leadership.
“I was outspoken,” Barletta said. “My endorsement wasn’t a silent endorsement. I didn’t hide. I spoke out.
“I didn’t just dip my toe in the water — I dove in head first and I know he appreciates that,” Barletta added.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.