Rauner reached out to Trump: ‘I called the president-elect’

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In a visit to a West Side manufacturer, Gov. Bruce Rauner offered a few details of his first phone chat with President-elect Donald Trump. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

After months of refusing to even mention Donald Trump’s name, Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday explained that he initiated the post-election call to the Republican president-elect, offering congratulations — after he explained who he was.

“I called the president-elect,” Rauner said of the Nov. 11 chat.

“I wanted to reach out. It’s very important with the new administration. There’s a lot of new changes coming. I don’t even know what all they’re going to be. But I want to make sure we’ve got some relationship because I want to make sure Illinois is in the best position possible to maximize the opportunity for the people of Illinois,” he said.

“We just had a cordial, it was probably five minutes, just ‘Hi,’ explained who I am, [and said] ‘Congratulations on the election outcome. I look forward to working together.’”

Rauner reiterated that it was the first time he’d spoken with Trump.

When Rauner first mentioned the call last week, the GOP governor said their chat was a “good, positive conversation.”

On Tuesday he further explained the significance of the call, saying it is “important that we have a working relationship. If we have a hostile relationship, it’s not going to help the people of Illinois.”

As head of the Illinois Republican Party, Rauner has for months said he would support his party’s presidential nominee, but he steadfastly refused to say more. The statement Rauner released the day after the election made no mention of the New York billionaire businessman or his historic win.

Rauner spoke of the phone call while visiting a West Side manufacturing facility where he also argued for cutting regulations that hurt small businesses.

The governor was careful in answering a question about one of Trump’s key issues.

When asked to comment on a bill sponsored by state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, that would require state pension funds to divest in companies hired by the federal government to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, Rauner said he didn’t know enough about the issue to weigh in.

“I’d have to see the bill before I could really give an intelligent response to it,” he said. “I support comprehensive immigration reform. I always have. I think that would be a good thing to do. And the other thing I’ll say is that the people of Illinois value inclusion and tolerance and diversity. These are guiding principles,” Rauner said.

He added that it’s time to come together.

“The election is over . . . I think the rhetoric needs to tone down and everyone needs to take a deep breath in order to start to be positive together,” he said.

But on the issue of deregulation, Rauner suggested Trump was not going far enough.

The president-elect pledged Monday to eliminate two regulations for every new one enacted.

“I think what I said two years ago is that it should be three to one,” Rauner said.

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