In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Hours after Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump delivered high praise for Vladimir Putin, House Speaker Paul Ryan had only harsh criticism for the Russian president and not a whole lot of praise for his own nominee.

"Vladimir Putin is an aggressor that does not share out interests. Vladimir Putin is violating the sovereignty of neighboring countries. It certainly appears that he is conducting state-sponsored cyber attacks on what appears to be our political system," Ryan said at his weekly press conference in response to a question from TPM. "That is not acting in our interests."

Pushed further, Ryan would not say if he was concerned about Trump's affinity for Putin.

"I made my points about Putin clear. I will just leave it at that," Ryan said.

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Do no harm.

That appears to be the mantra of GOP leaders as they barrel toward the November election –still optimistic they can hold onto their Senate majority and preserve their historic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives– even as their nominee Donald Trump remains an unpredictable force at the top of their ticket.

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After a crushing primary defeat last month, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) is as disenchanted as ever with his party's leadership in Congress.

Huelskamp, a member of the uber-conservative House Freedom Caucus, has had a strained relationship, to put it mildly, with House GOP leaders for years. He was on the outs under then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and his relationship with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been frosty.

With his seat already lost and his term wrapping up in January, Huelskamp did not hold back in a Wednesday interview with TPM in the Capitol. In particular, he had some harsh words for Ryan over how the appropriations process has played out in Congress.

"It's leadership's fault. They decided not to move appropriations bills through so here we are in September having to do a CR. Why? Don't forget it's because they didn't do the full appropriations," Huelskamp said. "It's what Boehner did. What's the difference?"

As Republicans return from a seven-week recess, Congress now is grappling with keeping the government funded through the election. Originally, Republican leaders in both the House and Senate had pledged to get back to "regular order" and pass spending bills through committee before bringing them to the floor.

Disagreements within GOP ranks as well as controversial amendments over LGBT rights halted that process and has brought members to the point where they may have to pass a continuing resolution.

Huelskamp lost his election earlier this summer in part because of his hardline conservative votes against items like the farm bill, which was of great importance to his district. He had also been thrown off of the Agriculture Committee under Boehner's reign and begged Ryan to publicly promise to restore him to the post, which Ryan said was up to the House Steering Committee.

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For months, Donald Trump has gloated about being on the winning end of a political system where elected officials owe their major donors favors. But now Trump is distancing himself from the pay-to-play world as he faces scrutiny over a major donation he made in support of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi as her office was weighing whether to sue Trump University.

Since embarking on his presidential campaign, Trump has boasted about his history of making major contributions to politicians of both parties -- contributions he said are part of a “game” that he has been on the “other side all of my life.”

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Hours after the Senate gaveled in from its seven-week recess, one Republican leader was already laying the groundwork for passing a three-month stopgap spending bill that would get the Senate back on the campaign trail and out of Washington sooner than later.

There is only one problem, some conservatives in the House of Representatives may fight tooth and nail against it.

The inability of the GOP-controlled House and Senate to pass the suite of appropriations bills to fund the government because of deep party divisions is one of the great ironies of this Congress. Riders and disagreements within his own conference had kept House Speaker Paul Ryan from being able to even pass a budget in the House, delaying the appropriations process. In the Senate, disagreements on Zika funding have poisoned the well and halted the funding process.

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When congressional Republicans left Washington on July 14, there was still time for Donald Trump to settle down and emerge with a real nuts and bolts campaign and a presidential temperament. After months of ducking questions in the hall about their wild man candidate, Republicans left Washington two months ago with a faint hope that they'd return to find a more favorable presidential news cycle.

There were a few small reasons to believe things could be moving in their direction. FBI Director James Comey's rebuke of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's handling of private email had given Trump a narrow lead over Clinton in an LA Times poll. And while an NBC poll had Clinton winning in six out of seven key battlegrounds, a Quinnipiac poll out that same week showed Trump surging ahead in the must-win states of Pennsylvania and Florida.

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There was quite the hype going into Donald Trump's immigration speech Wednesday night. Trump and a fresh-faced campaign manager had kept us on the edge of our seats. There was a last-minute diplomatic meeting with the president of Mexico for goodness sake. There was a press conference hours before his address in which Trump himself said the words "I happen to have a tremendous feeling for Mexican Americans."

This, many Republicans hoped, sounded like a candidate who was going to shift, change, soften, moderate ... PIVOT, if you will (sorry, we had to say it).

It was all a ruse, though. What we were left with was the Trump we have always known. He wants a border wall, he is certain Mexico will pay for it and he gave no indication that he wouldn't deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country.

So what happened? How did we come to believe Trump might reform his policies ahead of the general election? We didn't create this. Here are the clues over the last two weeks that set the stage for the big Trump speech in Phoenix that turned out not to be so big at all:

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On Tuesday morning, Maine Gov. Paul LePage surprised a lot of people when he admitted he may not have what it takes to finish his second term as governor.

“I think some things I’ve been asked to do are beyond my ability," LePage told Maine radio station WVOM. "I’m not going to say that I’m not going to finish it. I’m not saying that I am going to finish it.”

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Clinton Postpones Trip To Charlotte

In a statement released Friday evening, Hillary Clinton's campaign announced that the Democratic nominee…