Paul Ryan Stands by Comments Critical of Donald Trump, But Would Support Him as President

PHOTO: (L-R) Newly elected House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., in Washington, Oct. 29, 2015. | Presidential candidates Donald Trump in Boulder, Colo., Oct. 28, 2015.PlayAP Photo | Getty Images
WATCH Paul Ryan Stands by Comments Critical of Donald Trump, But Would Support Him as President

Newly-elected House Speaker Paul Ryan believes every Republican presidential candidate would make a better commander-in-chief than Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton – including Donald Trump, whose past comments on immigration the Wisconsin congressman called "extremely disrespectful."

Ryan said he stood by comments he made in July about Trump's rhetoric on immigration. He said Trump didn't "speak for the Republican Party" shortly after the real estate mogul said illegal immigrants coming into the United States were criminals and rapists.

Despite differences with Trump, Ryan said he would support whoever emerges as the Republican presidential nominee.

“Every one of these people would be a far better president than Hillary Clinton," he said. "We’re having a good primary process. It's cathartic, it's helpful."

A former Republican vice presidential candidate who developed his reputation crafting conservative budgets as chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan believes policy will matter more than personality in the race for the White House.

“We’re headed in the wrong direction and people deserve a clear choice,” he said, Ryan said, though he admitted he didn’t watch last week’s GOP presidential debate.

“I had about six days to plan for a speakership,” he said.

The Wisconsin senator was elected House speaker on Thursday, capping a whirlwind month of speculation following former House Speaker John Boehner’s surprise retirement announcement in September.

For weeks, Ryan, who appeared content to serve as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, resisted calls from Boehner and others to run for speaker. He reevaluated his position after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) dropped out of the race.

Ryan, 45, decided to run after convincing most House Republicans to agree to his terms of service and promising he would run the House differently than Boehner, whose leadership was challenged by hardliners.

“If I pick up where John Boehner left off, then I think we won't be successful,” he said.

Ryan said he wants to empower rank-and-file Republicans and committee chairmen to shape the House agenda, while also finding common ground with Democrats.

“I think we can do that without compromising our principles," he said.

Ryan, who has supported immigration reform efforts in the past, has promised House Republicans that he won't bring immigration reform to the floor without the support of the majority of the conference -- and not during this administration.

"I think he's [President Obama’s] proven untrustworthy on this issue," Ryan said. "He tried to go around Congress with an executive order."

"If we believe and have consensus on things like border enforcement and interior security, then that’s fine," he continued. "But this is not an issue I believe we can or should be able to work with this president on."

Editor's note: In an earlier version of this story Paul Ryan was misidentified as a Wisconsin senator. He is a Wisconsin congressman. ABC regrets the error, which has been corrected.

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