In an October conference call with congressional Republicans that was leaked Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said he would not defend then-candidate Donald Trump, “not now, not ever.”
According to Breitbart News, the website that published the leaked recording, the call came three days after the Washington Post published a recording of Trump bragging, during a taping of “Access Hollywood,” that he could kiss and grope women without their consent because he was a celebrity.
“His comments are not anywhere in keeping with our party’s principles and values,” Ryan said on the 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,” Ryan continued. “As you probably heard, I dis-invited him from my first congressional district GOP event this weekend, a thing I do every year. And I’m not going to be campaigning with him over the next 30 days.”
“Look, you guys know I have real concerns with our nominee,” Ryan continued. “I hope you appreciate that I’m doing what I think is best for you, the members, not what’s best for me. So, I want to do what’s best for our members, and I think this is the right thing to do. I’m going to focus my time on campaigning for House Republicans. I talked to a bunch of you over the last 72 hours and here is basically my takeaway. To everyone on this call, this is going to be a turbulent month. Many of you on this call are facing tough reelections. Some of you are not. But with respect to Donald Trump, I would encourage you to do what you think is best and do what you feel you need to do. Personally, you need to decide what’s best for you. And you all know what’s best for you where you are.”
The House speaker went on to say that “the last thing” he wants is for Hillary Clinton to become president, especially if she were to win a congressional majority.
“That’s why I’m going to spend the rest of this month fighting for Congress, fighting for our majorities,” Ryan said.
“I want to basically close with this,” he concluded later. “His comments are indefensible, they’re not in keeping with our principles, so I’m not going to try to defend him. I’m going to focus on Congress, I’m going to focus on upholding our values.
A spokesperson for Ryan did not respond to TPM’s request for comment, but Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck told Breitbart that the speaker’s comments on the tape were made in specific reference to Trump’s “Access Hollywood” statements, and not in reference to Trump generally.
“This was in response to that, but as everyone knows, they came together toward the end of the campaign and the speaker vocally supported him and even campaigned with Pence,” Buck said.
Though the audio of the call was not available at the time, details of Ryan’s remarks were widely reported.
Breitbart, whose former leader Steve Bannon is now President Trump’s chief strategist, has come out forcefully against Ryan’s herding of the American Health Care Act through the House of Representatives.
A few paragraphs below the story on the leaked October tape, the post’s author, Matthew Boyle, cites “no fewer than 15 other White House aides, including many on the press team” who told the publication that they were not happy with the lack of conservative support the bill has received.
“The President gave Ryan a chance,” one unnamed source “close to the President” told the publication. “If he doesn’t get his act together soon, the President will have no choice but to step in and fix this on his own. He’s the best negotiator on the planet, and if this were his bill not Ryan’s it would not be this much of a mess.”