House Speaker Paul Ryan downplayed the federal indictments of two Republican colleagues as “isolated incidents” while also dismissing President Donald Trump’s public criticism of the charges.
Trump tweeted his disapproval on Monday that the “two long running, Obama era, investigations” were brought to a charge by the Justice Department just ahead of the midterms elections. New York Rep. Chris Collins was indicted for insider trading and California Rep. Duncan Hunter was indicted for campaign violations last month.
“Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff,” Trump tweeted Monday, mocking the attorney general. “The Democrats, none of whom voted for Jeff Sessions, must love him now.”
During a news conference in the Capitol Wednesday morning, Ryan distanced himself from the president’s position, although he withheld criticism of the president for interjecting his opinions into an ongoing legal matter.
“Justice is blind. Justice should be blind and should have no respect with respect to political party,” Ryan said. “Look, I mean, that's the emblem of the Justice Department: blind justice, so I think it's very important that we respect the fact that justice should be blind, it should have no impact on political party and I think the process is working the ways as it should.”
After Collins and Hunter were indicted, Ryan quickly removed both from their committee assignments, though he unheeded Democratic calls for their resignations.
“We've taken the appropriate action,” Ryan said, citing precedent Democrats have taken with their own members. “We've removed these members from their committees, which is what we do in these kinds of situations. It's happened for the other side of the aisle as well.”
Wednesday afternoon, Ryan and other Republican congressional leaders will meet with Trump in the Roosevelt Room at the White House to discuss the fall’s legislative agenda, and there’s no more burning topic than a budding showdown with the president over border wall funding.
“This is a typical meeting that you have when you come back from the recess, to go through the fall agenda,” Ryan said. “There's really nothing exceptional about that and we've had plenty of conversations about how we want to close out our agenda, and there are a lot of things we have yet to do, on a whole host of issues and that's what we're going to be discussing.”
While Trump has suggested holding out for border wall funding might justify a government shutdown at the end of the month, Ryan’s aim this fall is to conclude his speakership without harming the GOP’s electoral prospects in November.
“That's not in anyone's interest, and he knows that,” Ryan said of a possible shutdown. “I think the results will prove itself.”