Speaker Paul Ryan won’t defend Donald Trump: “You all need to do what’s best for you and your district”

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan dealt his own party’s presidential nominee a withering blow Monday, telling fellow Republicans he will no longer defend Donald Trump and will instead use the next 29 days to focus on preserving his party’s hold on Congress.

“The speaker is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities,” Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said in a statement.

The move — highly unusual in US political history — laid bare the seemingly intractable divisions now seizing the Republican Party with a month left before the presidential vote. Support for Trump among the GOP establishment, already weak amid disagreements over policy and tone, has now eroded to new lows.

In a conference call with members Monday morning, Ryan told lawmakers, “you all need to do what’s best for you and your district,” according to someone who listened to the meeting.

“He will spend his entire energy making sure that Hillary Clinton does not get a blank check with a Democrat-controlled Congress,” said the person on the call — an implied acknowledgment that Trump no longer appears able to capture the White House.

Trump fired back with the following tweet:

Reaction to Ryan’s decision illustrates the schism currently splitting the Republican Party. A person who listened to the call said the reaction wasn’t entirely positive — and that Ryan’s comments angered more conservative GOP members who believed the speaker was essentially conceding the presidential contest to Clinton.

Trump hits back

Trump responded to the House speaker on Twitter Monday, saying Ryan should focus on other policy areas instead of fighting with the Republican nominee.

“Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee,” Trump said.

At least eight members angrily pushed back at Ryan, saying the party needs to be united headed into November to keep the majority. One member, two sources on call said, pointedly told Ryan that the better Trump does in November, the better the House GOP will do.

“It’s not rocket science,” the member said.

Among the people who objected to Ryan: Rep. Billy Long of Missouri, a Trump supporter, Rep. Louis Gohmert of Texas, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California.

Ryan’s comments follow a Washington Post story out Friday which revealed Trump made lewd and sexually aggressive comments in 2005 that were caught on a hot microphone. Trump apologized for those remarks at Sunday’s debate, but dismissed them as “locker room talk” and pivoted to attacks on former President Bill Clinton.

But Ryan did make clear that he would no longer provide proactive support for his party’s presidential candidate. A source said the speaker would campaign in 17 states and 42 cities this month.

A spokesman for Trump’s campaign, Jason Miller, tweeted after the news broke, “Nothing’s changed. Mr. Trump’s campaign has always been powered by a grassroots movement, not Washington.”

A Trump campaign source told CNN the campaign has told members of Congress from the beginning to focus on winning their seats, even if that means abandoning Trump because the campaign wants as big a Republican majority as possible come January.

Afterward, a person who listened to the call said the reaction wasn’t entirely positive — and that Ryan’s comments angered some GOP members who believed the speaker was essentially conceding the presidential contest to Clinton.

Ryan spokesman Zack Roday said the speaker “made it clear on the call he’s not conceding the presidential race.”

Ryan under scrutiny

The speaker’s actions in the aftermath of the lewd tape’s release have been closely monitored given Ryan’s initial reluctance to get behind Trump when he clinched the GOP nomination.

Dozens of fellow Republican lawmakers withdrew their support for Trump, many insisting he should withdraw from the race entirely. The defections came largely from Republican lawmakers facing tough re-election battles, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte. In the House, Rep. Jason Chaffetz said Trump should step aside.

Trump and Ryan were originally set to appear together in Wisconsin on Saturday. But Ryan rescinded his invitation after the new comments came to light. Over the weekend, his office remained largely quiet about how he would respond to the explosive reports about Trump’s past behavior.

But on the call Monday, the message was unequivocal: Trump will no longer enjoy whatever political firepower Ryan could bring to the presidential race in its final stretch.


  • Opinion8d

    I’m very disappointed in Ryan -he’s playing right into the Democrat’s hands. The PEOPLE -fair and square (and by big margins), voted for Trump to represent the Republicans. Instead of doing everything in his power to defeat Hillary to promote a Conservative agenda (which doesn’t happen with Hillary in the office), Ryan demonstrates that he is a true politician.

  • Opinion8d

    Proof that Ryan doesn’t get it……he said he’s going to work to protect the Congressional Majorities for Republicans -FOR WHAT?!?!?! The people delivered them to you last time and you squandered it. This is what is upsetting to so many people and why Trump is so popular (to his base). The fact that Ryan doesn’t understand how upset people are of passive republicans is extremely frustrating.

  • Joe

    Wow I agree with you Paul Ryan 100% Republicans don’t vote for there own interests most of the time but this election they vote for Trump only one reason of hate of Hillary if Charles Manson was there candidate and running against Hillary they voted for him

  • micheala

    Very surprised with his position on this issue. Most democrat liberal lefties with their Hollywood connections have said worse in their rap songs and football halftime lyrics. Democrats have such a high moral compass. Stand by your candidate and put on your big boy pants. The Democrats will stop at nothing to get her elected, almost like Mia the apostate from hell in Damien the movie.

  • Dylan

    I am.very disheartened.with speaker ryan..i no longer.respext .him a NO vote.for.Trump is a vote.for.Hillary..so speaker ryan votes for anyone but trump paul ryan is voting for hillary..simple as that…so ryan is a Rhino….there shall be a new party..and it wont be republican…

  • Marry

    This should come as no surprise as Paul Ryan has wanted Clinton for president from the time that Donald Trump won the nomination. Ryan wants more than anything to be able to continue the destruction of the of the United States, no more, no less.
    Paul Ryan is responsible for the loss of hundreds of thousands of American jobs, the people in his district had the opportunity to stop this anti America cretin in the primary but what did they do? Re-elected this anarchist.
    The people of the first district are either as un American as Ryan or as dumb as a bucket of hammers.
    I’ll leave it to you the reader to decide

  • Marty

    And do you know the greatest irony in all this? Paul Ryan’s mail blast this time next year asking for money “to help me stop Hillary Clinton”.

    Honestly, I get nauseous looking at Ryan and his condescending smirk.

  • Eddy Mybas

    Rino big time! Establishment career political hack! Needs a wake up call and never to be re-elected! Wisconsin has better conservatives than him.

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