Donald Trump’s campaign team came out on Thursday with a bogus new explanation for why Trump declined to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) in his primary. His aides said the campaign has a policy of not getting involved in primaries.
But that explanation rings hollow.
When Trump hesitated on Tuesday to endorse Ryan in his primary, he made no mention of a wish to stay neutral in Republican primaries. He simply said, “I’m just not quite there yet.”
On top of that, Trump hasn’t actually stayed neutral in the primaries. He endorsed Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) in the primary she lost back in June, and he even recorded a robocall for her.
Despite Trump’s past involvement in a House primary race, campaign chair Paul Manafort used that explanation in more than one interview Thursday morning.
During an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” host George Stephanopoulos noted that Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus was reportedly unhappy with Trump’s hesitance to back Ryan and asked Manafort whether Trump will endorse Ryan.
Manafort indicated that there’s a “conflict” over whether to back Ryan, but said that the campaign had decided to stay away from primary races.
“There’s a conflict within the Trump campaign, and we’ve sort of had a rule of not getting involved in primaries because it’s usually not a good situation for the presidential candidate. Of course, he’s going to work with Paul Ryan,” Manafort replied. “Ryan is also running against somebody who’s not going to win but nonetheless, he’s a strong supporter of Mr. Trump’s. And so it’s not just in Paul Ryan’s district. That gets all the notoriety because he’s the speaker.”
He made similar comments during an interview on CBS’ “This Morning.”
“We have a campaign position of not getting involved in primaries. Paul Ryan is a close personal friend of Mike Pence. Paul Ryan nominated Gov. Pence at the Republican convention for vice president. Donald Trump understood that relationship,” Manafort said on CBS when asked if Trump will back Ryan.
Manafort also noted that Trump supports Ryan as speaker and indicated that he will endorse Ryan in the general election.
“He’s going to support Paul Ryan. He does support Paul Ryan. He said he’s going to work with Paul Ryan. So there’s no issue about that,” he said.
Trump campaign co-chair Sam Clovis gave the same explanation on CNN Wednesday morning when asked if Trump will endorse Paul Ryan.
“I think that we want to be careful about endorsing in any primary race, because it casts a shadow over issues, and right now, we ought to concentrate on our own campaign,” Clovis said.
“I think that we’re reluctant to endorse in any primary. We have a strong opponent in Kelly Ward out in Arizona, going up against Sen. McCain. There are strong races in Louisiana and other places that where we have strong field of primary candidates. A lot of people have approached the campaign, asking for help,” he later added. “It is not an appropriate move on our part to endorse in these primaries, because it just simply isn’t what we ought to be doing. And because we worked through the primary process. We went through 16 other candidates.”