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House Speaker Paul Ryan Says He's Not Backing Trump — Yet

House Speaker Paul Ryan told CNN he isn't ready to endorse likely GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump just yet.
J. Scott Applewhite
House Speaker Paul Ryan told CNN he isn't ready to endorse likely GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump just yet.

Don't add House Speaker Paul Ryan to the list of Republicans who are, even reluctantly, backing de facto GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

"I'm just not ready to do that at this point. I'm not there right now," the party's 2012 vice presidential nominee said in an interview on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper.

The Wisconsin Republican signaled he would eventually like to support Trump, who became the GOP's likely White House nominee this week after both Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich withdrew from the race.

But Ryan said that Trump first needs to bring together "all wings of the Republican Party and the conservative movement" and run a campaign so that Americans "have something that they're proud to support and proud to be a part of."

"Saying we're unified doesn't in and of itself unify us," Ryan said. "I think he has to do more to unify this party."

Trump's response? He's not really a fan of the GOP leader's policies either.

"I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan's agenda," Trump said in a statement. "Perhaps in the future we can work together and come to an agreement about what is best for the American people. They have been treated so badly for so long that it is about time for politicians to put them first!"

The message from the House speaker is a much different one than his Senate counterpart is sending.

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasn't effusive in his praise of Trump, the Kentucky senator said in a statement Wednesday that "I have committed to supporting the nominee chosen by Republican voters, and Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee, is now on the verge of clinching that nomination."

And as NPR's Susan Davis reported, several congressional Republicans have begun to slowly embrace the controversial real estate mogul who now seems destined to be their standard-bearer in November.

But Ryan's hesitancy to align with Trump could give some other vulnerable GOP members cover to also distance themselves from the probable Republican nominee. The GOP's control of the Senate is at risk, and Trump could also be a down-ballot drag on several House contests as well.

Ryan has long expressed misgivings about Trump's campaign, though he never formally endorsed anyone in the primary. Last year, Ryan blasted Trump's controversial ban on Muslims entering the U.S., saying that "is not what this party stands for."

Many in his party also hoped he might be a last-minute savior for the GOP field or would be willing to be drafted as a candidate at a contested convention. He bluntly shot down any speculation of that possibility last month.

Likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's team immediately seized on Ryan's comments, blasting out a release that the House speaker "joins a list of conservatives rebuking Trump as he captures the GOP nomination."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.

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