As President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan publicly promote the Republican replacement for Obamacare, a conservative news site has posted an audio recording that dredges up the rocky relationship the two Republicans had throughout the presidential campaign.
Breitbart News published the recording of a conference call between Ryan and House Republicans on October 10 in which Ryan says he will never defend Trump again.
After Trump won the election, their relationship quickly improved.
In early October, though, Republicans were in crisis mode over a 2005 recording of Trump bragging about sexual assault to “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush. Several prominent GOP leaders had distanced themselves from then-nominee Trump when Ryan convened this call.
The posting by Breitbart, a site once run by Trump’s current chief strategist, adds a fresh wrinkle to the contentious health care debate. Breitbart, which often calls the American Health Care Act “Ryancare,” has been highly critical of the legislation and has attempted to distance Trump from it in its reporting, even as Trump praises the bill.
Details of the call have previously been reported, but this is the first time audio of Ryan's remarks has been heard. It is unclear how Breitbart obtained it.
“I am not going to defend Donald Trump—not now, not in the future,” Ryan told Republicans on the tape.
He said Trump’s comments were contrary to the party’s principles and values, and he gave members permission to walk away from the party’s nominee as well.
“I’m going to focus my time on campaigning for House Republicans,” Ryan said. “I talked to a bunch of you over the last 72 hours and here is basically my takeaway. To everyone on this call, this is going to be a turbulent month. Many of you on this call are facing tough reelections. Some of you are not. But with respect to Donald Trump, I would encourage you to do what you think is best and do what you feel you need to do.”
He added that he did not want to help Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton, who he described as a “failed progressive” running “an abysmal campaign.”
“It’s amazing how easily she could be beaten,” he said.