Two top allies break with Speaker Ryan over Trump non-endorsement
House speaker Paul Ryan's refusal to support Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president has led to a break with two of his most trusted allies in the House.
Reps. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia and Dennis Ross of Florida, key Ryan lieutenants, say they can't understand their leader's position and would hope that he supports Trump down the road.
“I honestly don’t understand what Paul’s thinking — I don’t get it,” said Westmoreland, who is retiring after this year. “I try not to give advice to the speaker, but I think it just really brought about, in my opinion, even more confusion to this thing.”
“Trust me, I haven’t been on the Donald Trump bandwagon, but I will support him, and I disagree with Ryan’s comment,” Ross said. “I think it’s time we unite (and) … extend an olive branch and start working this out.”
The sharp rebuke from two senior, longtime GOP leadership allies is a rare sight in the House. It highlights a schism in the lower chamber that's expected to grow next week when Congress returns from recess and some House Republicans line up behind their leader and others rally around the GOP standard bearer-in-waiting.
Ryan and Trump will meet face-to-face Thursday at Republican headquarters in Washington to see if there’s any way to reconcile their differences in both style and substance. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will play counselor, after Ryan said Thursday he could not support Trump and Trump’s camp fired back Friday morning Ryan has no business being speaker if he can't back the party's pick for president.
Lawmakers will be asked to take a side: the young, conservative budget wonk that his party establishment clamored for to run for president himself? Or the bombastic bomb-thrower whose rocked the party with his surprise voter-appeal.
Ryan's choice of words — that there are "lots of questions" about Trump that conservatives want answered, "myself included" — suggests that his stand might be partly or even mostly a calculated attempt to try to mold the unwieldy nominee into one who thinks and acts more like the speaker.
Ryan has to know that unless he supports the nominee of his party, he can no longer serve as speaker. Even those who hate Trump have to realize that fundamental fact of life. You simply can't have the highest ranking Republican in government opposing his party's presidential nominee. It would be ludicrous and a source of endless attacks on Trump by Democrats.
It will also lead to a possible defeat by Ryan in the Republican primary in August by wealthy business executive Paul Nehlen, who has come out in support of Trump.
So unless Ryan can iron things out with Trump this week, I think there's an excellent chance he will resign or be kicked out. There's just no room in the party for a speaker of House whose appearances on the Sunday news shows between now and November will be all about why he isn't supporting Trump rather than advancing the Republican agenda.