Trump thinks having a relationship with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, could be a "wonderful thing." In a military-focused forum hosted by NBC on Wednesday, Trump even defended Putin from reports that his country is trying to influence or disrupt the U.S. election.
"Nobody knows that for a fact," Trump said after moderator Matt Lauer repeated the allegations.
Ryan is not nearly as willing to give Putin the benefit of the doubt. In a news briefing Thursday, Ryan seemed to go out of his way to make clear that he's not keen on Putin — and that he certainly would not defend Putin from reports that Russia is meddling in U.S. elections.
"Let me say this about Vladimir Putin," Ryan said. "Vladimir Putin is an aggressor that does not share our interests. Vladimir Putin is violating the sovereignty of neighboring countries."
Ryan has disagreed with Trump so much that we have a running list. It includes Trump's proposed ban on Muslims, David Duke, Judge Gonzalo Curiel and more. But what's interesting about the Ryan-Trump split on Russia is that Ryan is willing to take a stance that is actually far more in line with the Democratic position than with that of the GOP candidate. (On Thursday, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton said Trump's praise for Putin "is not just unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country, as well as to our commander in chief, it is scary.")
Ryan hasn't used that sharp language, but he has indicated (several times) that he does not share Trump's same sentiment about Russia's "wonderful" potential. On Thursday, the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution supporting the sovereignty of Georgia, a small Eastern European country that Russia invaded in 2008. The clear-as-day message: Back off other countries, Russia.
It was the kind of thing you'd expect the House to do to show up a presidential candidate -- just not their own presidential candidate.
(The timing of this resolution -- one of the first things the House passed since it came back Tuesday from a seven-week recess -- was probably an unfortunate coincidence for Ryan, who doesn't have autonomy over the House floor calendar.)
Ryan and Trump's Russia split isn't a new one. In July, as Democrats' internal emails were leaked on the eve of the party's convention, and Democrats pointed a finger at Russia, Ryan did nothing to dismiss that view. His spokesman, Brendan Buck, issued a statement that left little nuance: "Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election."
Trump, meanwhile, declined to criticize Russia — even as his own running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, said there should be "serious consequences" if Democrats' allegations are true.
While the rest of U.S. politics was calling out Russia for possible meddling, Trump invited Russia to get more involved in U.S. elections: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said in a news conference, referring to Clinton.
On this issue, as on so many others, Trump has taken a sharply different path from many in his party — even many in U.S. politics. And Ryan has publicly, painstakingly tried to prod Republicans in another direction. But at least one isn't listening.