JANESVILLE, Wis. — House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Friday that he remains unsure whether Donald Trump’s public drama with him over a possible endorsement has concluded, hours before the GOP presidential nominee holds a rally in this battleground state.
“Heck if I know,” Ryan said Friday in an interview with WISN radio’s Jay Weber. “I’m not going to try to psychoanalyze this stuff.”
The speaker’s comments were the latest sign that tensions with Trump remain at the highest levels of the Republican Party less than 100 days before the election, with the House speaker frustrated and distracted by his party’s presidential nominee.
Ryan did not say whether he has spoken to Trump in recent days, nor did he offer encouraging words about Trump’s campaign.
Earlier in the week, Trump told The Washington Post that he is not yet ready to endorse Ryan ahead of the speaker’s Aug. 9 primary. Trump has praised Ryan’s opponent, businessman Paul Nehlen.
“Honestly, the endorsement that I personally care about is from the people here in Wisconsin, my 1st Congressional District employers,” Ryan told the local radio station. “So, I’m just going to rise above the stuff and I’m not going to get involved in some sort of petty back and forth. I see no purpose in doing that. I’m going to be me and do my thing.”
Ryan acknowledged that he has “spoken out a few times” against Trump’s comments on several fronts in recent months, which has irritated Trump and his supporters even though Ryan has given Trump his formal endorsement.
But Ryan said he said made clear to Trump and others at the outset of the presidential race that they should not expect him to march in lockstep. “That’s just the way the cookie crumbles,” he said.
When asked about Nehlen, who has said that the United States should consider deporting Muslims, in particular those who follow sharia law, Ryan was incredulous.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” he said. “I think people are going to thoroughly reject this on Tuesday.”
Ryan added that Nehlen’s campaign, which has been backed by stars of the conservative counter-establishment such as Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter, is fueled by “scam PACs” and “out-of-state” donors.
“They’re not pushing conservatism. They call this alt-conservatism,” Ryan said.
When Weber said that this specific group, the “alt-right,” was tied to white supremacists and fringe groups, Ryan did not argue the point.
“It’s a nasty, virulent strain of something,” Ryan said, repeating the host’s words back to him. “I don’t even know what it is other than that it isn’t us. It isn’t what we believe in.”
Turning to his congressional work, Ryan said he would not bring the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact to the House floor while President Obama is still in office.
"No, no," Ryan said. "We don't even have the votes for it.... I don't see any way in which that could be done because you'd have to change the TPP in some substantial ways, and I just don't see that happening."