NEWS BRIEF House Speaker Paul Ryan endorsed Donald Trump in the spring, lending the Republican candidate’s campaign legitimacy and ushering in a period of alleged party unification. But Trump won’t return the favor.
On the same day President Obama called out leaders like Ryan for continuing to support the Republican nominee, Trump told The Washington Post in a Tuesday interview that when it comes to endorsing Ryan, he’s “not quite there yet.” He’s also withholding support from Arizona Senator John McCain, and spoke critically of New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte.
The three lawmakers have something in common: They are voting for Trump, but have also publicly criticized some of his more controversial comments. Most recently, all three released statements decrying Trump’s remarks about the Khan family, who lost their son in combat in 2004. McCain—who Trump once suggested isn’t a war hero despite his prisoner-of-war status during the Vietnam War—hasn’t done enough to help U.S. veterans to win Trump’s support, he told the Post. And Trump hit Ayotte for giving him “zero support” in his race against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump seems to have chosen his language deliberately when discussing Ryan, who presided over the Republican National Convention in July. His “not quite there yet” comment sounds like Ryan’s own statements this past spring describing why he was holding off on endorsing his party’s then-presumptive nominee. “To be perfectly candid, I’m not ready to do that right now,” Ryan told CNN’s Jake Tapper in May. It was a conspicuous line—and one he echoed over and over in the interview.
Trump, it seems, hasn’t gotten over Ryan’s delay—or simply isn’t happy with his response to Trump’s feud with the Khans. Here’s the Post with more from the interview:
With Ryan’s Wisconsin primary scheduled for next Tuesday, Trump praised the House speaker’s underdog opponent, Paul Nehlen, for running “a very good campaign.” Trump said that Ryan has sought his endorsement, but that as of now he is only “giving it very serious consideration.”
“I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country,” Trump said. “We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.”
Trump’s refusal to back Ryan represents an extraordinary breach of political decorum and signals that the Republican Party remains divided two weeks after a national convention in Cleveland staged to showcase party unity.
The Nehlen campaign couldn’t be reached for comment, but Ryan’s office told reporters that no one from the speaker’s team has asked Trump for his endorsement. Earlier this week, Trump sent a tweet to Nehlen thanking him for recent declarations of support. In hindsight, it seems like a tease of Trump’s comments Tuesday.