Speaker Paul D. Ryan sought to distance himself Friday from Donald Trump’s insistence that a federal judge’s Mexican heritage makes him unfit to hear lawsuits involving the now-defunct Trump University.
Speaking on a Wisconsin radio station one day after he officially endorsed the presumptive Republican nominee, Ryan called Trump’s comments “out of left field for my mind.”
“It’s reasoning I don’t relate to,” Ryan (R-Wis.) said during an interview with 1130 WISN. “I completely disagree with the thinking behind that.”
Trump doubled down on his racially charged commentary about U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel after Ryan’s endorsement, telling the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that Curiel, who was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents, has a conflict of interest given his ethnic background and Trump’s controversial views on immigration.
“I’m building a wall,” Trump told the Journal. “It’s an inherent conflict of interest.”
Trump has singled out Curiel for criticism in recent days after he unsealed some documents in a case involving Trump University.
“I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater,” Trump said at a rally in San Diego earlier in the week. The business mogul added that he believed Curiel was “Mexican.”
The controversy, which has alarmed legal experts, raises questions for Ryan.
During Friday’s radio interview, Ryan said Trump “clearly says and does things I don’t agree with.”
“I’ve had to speak up [from] time to time when that’s occurred, and I’ll continue to do that if that’s necessary,” Ryan said. He added, “I hope it’s not.”
On Friday, Ryan announced that, next week, House Republicans plan to release the first two elements of an election year policy agenda, which, he argues, will allow House Republicans to campaign on “a positive, optimistic vision for a more confident America.”
Trump’s penchant for controversial comments, however, will challenge Ryan to keep the focus on this agenda, which the speaker says can serve as the foundation of the party’s platform going into November’s elections.
When he endorsed Trump earlier this week, Ryan said he did so because he thinks that Trump, if elected, will sign the House GOP’s policy proposal into law while Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton would not.
“It really comes down to that at the end of the day,” he said during the radio interview.
The first two parts of the six-point agenda focus on poverty and national security.
“Instead of trapping people in poverty, we can get them on the ladder of opportunity, reward work, open our economy so everyone can make the most of their lives,” Ryan said in a video released by his office Friday. “As you will see, this is what our plan does.”
The other four planks of the House GOP agenda project focus on health care, taxes, regulatory reform and reasserting Congress’s constitutional authority.
Ryan will release the poverty proposal Tuesday morning during a visit to the House of Help City of Hope in the District’s Anacostia neighborhood. He will be joined Thursday by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the Council on Foreign Relations for the release of national security proposals during a panel discussion on “Protecting the U.S. Homeland” and “Defending Freedom, Advancing American Interests, and Renewing Our National Security Tools.”
The House GOP agenda project was launched at the annual GOP policy retreat in January. Republican leaders promised to work with rank-and-file members to draft a policy blueprint that would help the GOP “raise our gaze” to loftier ideas during a presidential campaign that has been characterized by embarrassing party infighting and rancor.
Ryan assigned the chairmen of the existing standing committees to launch task forces to vet ideas through dozens of meetings among rank-and-file House members.
Aides to Ryan and Trump have been in regular contact in recent weeks discussing elements of the agenda project, according to Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong.
Ryan said that while House Republicans and Trump may disagree over some details, they share the same policy principles and they need to communicate that to voters.
“We can’t afford to blow another election,” he told WISN.