House Speaker Paul Ryan is not rescinding his endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump but told fellow House Republicans in a conference call today that they should handle Trump however they think it will most benefit their own races.
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“You all need to do what’s best for you in your district,” he told the representatives, according to a person on the call.
He also said he would not defend Trump or campaign with him for the next 30 days.
AshLee Strong, a Ryan spokeswoman, said that there was no change in his position on Trump.
Ryan endorsed Trump in June, writing in an op-ed, “I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives. That’s why I’ll be voting for him this fall.”
A person on the call said Ryan will spend the rest of the campaign cycle “making sure that Hillary Clinton does not get a blank check with a Democrat-controlled Congress.”
Trump tweeted a reaction to Ryan's comments on the call later on in the afternoon.
Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2016
Strong said Ryan was explicit on the conference call that he was not conceding that Clinton would win the presidential election on Nov. 8.
The language Ryan used in the conference call today was similar to that in an August fundraising email, in which he wrote, “If we fail to protect our majority in Congress, we could be handing President Hillary Clinton a blank check.”
About a dozen members spoke in the hour-long conference call. Nearly all of them - such as Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming - represent deep-red districts, and voiced support for sticking with Trump.
House conservatives bristled at Ryan's plans not to defend or campaign with Donald Trump on this morning's hour-long conference call.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, a Trump supporter, openly criticized Ryan for not doing enough to back the party's nominee. That prompted a response from the Wisconsin Republican, who emphasized that he wasn't un-endorsing Trump.
But Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama, who pulled support for Trump over the weekend, emphasized the need to support the NRCC - House Republicans' campaign arm -- to protect the majority.
NRCC Chairman Greg Walden, who said last month that internal GOP polling showed no negative Trump effect down-ballot, warned that the national climate had shifted and that things "are not moving in our direction," according to one source - raising concerns about a Trump drag on House races.
Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania, was the only member to bring up concerns about Trump and future revelations, asking what happens to Republicans next time another one hits.
“The only thing that would shock me in this election cycle is if there aren’t more revelations to come,” he said on the call.