House Speaker Paul Ryan has been defending Donald Trump ever since his formal endorsement of him two days before the November 2016 presidential election.
But in a conference call in early October, Ryan told fellow House Republicans he would not “defend Donald Trump — not now, not in the future,” according to an audio recording published by Breitbart News on Monday.
Ryan’s abandonment of Trump, which came in response to the publication of Trump’s lewd remarks about women on the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, had been reported at the time.
“The world is well aware of this history,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the House speaker, said Tuesday in a statement to Yahoo News. “And obviously a lot has happened since then.”
Buck added: “As everyone knows, they came together toward the end of the campaign and the speaker vocally supported him.”
But the publication of the news by Breitbart, a far-right, pro-Trump website that was formerly led by White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, puts Ryan’s sometimes difficult relationship with the president into stark relief.
“His comments are not anywhere in keeping with our party’s principles and values,” Ryan said during the Oct. 10 call. “There are basically two things that I want to make really clear, as for myself as your speaker. I am not going to defend Donald Trump — not now, not in the future.”
The same day, Trump responded to reports about Ryan’s comments.
“Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee,” Trump tweeted.
Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2016
The remarks followed months of Ryan trying to determine his exact public relationship with his party’s nominee. In June, shortly after Ryan endorsed Trump, he condemned the mogul’s comments about a Mexican-American judge, calling them racist. The “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump was recorded years ago boasting about groping and forcibly kissing women, resulted in Ryan distancing himself somewhat from Trump just weeks from Election Day.
Ryan disinvited Trump to a GOP event in his home district in October, and pledged not to campaign on his behalf. In the leaked audio, he urged GOP members to “do what you think is best and do what you feel you need to do.”
“I’m not going to be campaigning with [Trump],” Ryan said, adding: “I’m going to spend the next 28 days working hard with all of our members to get reelected because we need a check on Hillary Clinton if she wins the presidency.”
This week, Ryan has been out selling the House GOP replacement for Obamacare, a key part of Trump’s agenda.
And Breitbart has taken the opportunity to blame the House speaker for what some Republicans see as the bill’s shortcomings.
“[Ryan] has pushed now President Donald Trump to believe his healthcare legislation the American Health Care Act would repeal and replace Obamacare when it does not repeal Obamacare,” Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle wrote. “Ryan has also, according to Trump ally Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), misled President Trump into believing that Ryan’s bill can pass Congress. Paul and others believe the bill is dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate since a number of GOP senators have come out against it, and there are serious questions about whether it can pass the House.”
Breitbart has a history of torching Ryan and accusing him of being insufficiently conservative.
“This is the first major initiative that Trump has worked on with Ryan,” Boyle continued. “And the fact it is going so poorly calls into question whether Speaker Ryan, the GOP’s failed 2012 vice presidential nominee who barely supported Trump at all in 2016, really understands how Trump won and how to win in general.”
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