House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., issued a stern warning Thursday about the rhetoric coming from Donald Trump about the way government should work.
“We will lose our freedoms in this country, including all of the Bill of Rights, if we don’t robustly defend the separation of powers,” Ryan said at his weekly press conference inside the U.S. Capitol.
Ryan was asked by reporters numerous times about Trump’s recent conduct. Just this week, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee questioned whether President Obama actually wants to stop terrorist attacks, accused many American Muslims of sheltering terrorists and said he could act unilaterally as president to prevent any type or class of people from entering the country. Trump made the last claim despite the fact that Article I, Section 8, clause 4 of the Constitution entrusts Congress with the power to “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.”
And on Wednesday night in Atlanta, Trump issued a rebuke to Republican leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Ryan, who leads the lower chamber of Congress, and the many others who have criticized Trump over the past days and weeks for a merry-go-round of offensive, controversial and erroneous statements.
“Our leaders have to get a lot tougher, and be quiet. Just please be quiet,” Trump said. “Don’t talk. Please, be quiet. Just be quiet, to the leaders, because they have to get tougher, they have to get sharper, they have to get smarter, and we have to have our Republicans either stick together or let me just do it by myself.”
At Ryan’s Thursday press briefing, he was asked first if he would ever rescind his endorsement of Trump. Ryan noticeably did not rule out the possibility, saying only, “That’s not my plan. I don’t have a plan to do that.”
Ryan was then asked “how many more times” he would have to repudiate something said by Trump, as he did again Tuesday in rejecting Trump’s proposal to temporarily bar all Muslims from entering the U.S.
“I don’t know,” Ryan said.
“Does that bother you that you have to keep doing this?” a reporter asked.
Ryan chuckled. “He’s a different kind of candidate,” he said of Trump. “This is a different kind of year.”
He talked about defending conservative principles and then, almost as an afterthought, tried to remind himself of why he was doing all this in the first place. “I do, though, believe that the last thing we want is a Democrat in the White House, like Hillary Clinton,” Ryan said.
Ryan was then asked about Trump’s rescinding of the Washington Post’s access to his political rallies, which Trump announced this week after complaining about the paper’s coverage. “That’s a new one,” Ryan said. In an act of solidarity with the press, he gave the last question of the day to a Post reporter, who asked about Trump’s “be quiet” statement.
“How do you have any confidence that this is the guy that is going to have respect for separation of power?” the Post reporter asked.
Ryan laughed again. “You know you can’t make this up sometimes,” he said.
Ryan noted that he and the other Republican congressional leaders had just that morning introduced a new set of plans to reduce and restrict the power of the president. Republicans have complained for years that Obama has overreached the power of the executive branch through executive orders and agency rule-making that replaces laws made by Congress.
“I’ll just say we represent a separate, but equal, branch of government. We just spent the morning talking about how valuable the separation of powers is and how we’re trying to restore the entire principal of self-government of government-by-consent,” Ryan said.
“We will lose our freedoms in this country, including all of the Bill of Rights, if we don’t robustly defend the separation of powers, and we’re going to fight for those rights on behalf of our citizens so that we remain a self-governing people,” he said.