During the 2016 campaign, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump did not get along. At one point, Ryan denounced, disagreed with or criticized Trump as often as once a week. In October, Ryan dropped Trump altogether, and Trump — well, Trump tweeted.
Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2016
Three months into Trump's presidency and one failed health-care reform deal later, the two Republican leaders have a much less antagonistic but no less complicated relationship.
Ryan repeatedly tries to give the president the benefit of the doubt while withstanding heat from pro-Trump conservative allies. Trump seems to be trying to give Ryan the benefit of the doubt while weighing his conflicting emotions about why Republicans' health-care deal imploded.
In some ways, the men's fates are tied to each other: Recent Marquette University polling finds Ryan's popularity rises and falls among Republicans commensurate with how friendly he is with Trump.
Their relationship could shape how much a fractured Republican Party can get done on taxes, immigration, infrastructure and just keeping the government open later this month. In the wake of the health-care debacle, a Pew Research Center poll out Monday finds Ryan has a lower approval rating (29 percent) than Trump (39 percent).
So, as Trump prepares to visit a tool manufacturer in Ryan's congressional district Tuesday, let's take a look at the all-important Trump-Ryan relationship, in their own words.
January: “I'm starting to really, really love Paul."
As Trump was being sworn into office, Ryan still seemed dazzled by his win. He described his relationship with Trump as “very, very healthy” and indicated that everything that happened during the campaign may as well never have happened.
“He really figured out how to connect with people,” Ryan told Charlie Rose two days before Trump's inauguration, adding, "Everybody, you know, talks about Twitter and all this stuff.”
Trump was just as enamored. “I'm starting to really, really love Paul,” he told Republican Party leaders at a pre-inauguration event. “I just want to let the world know, we are doing very well together. We agree.”
Six days after the inauguration: “Torture is illegal”
Well, maybe they don't agree on everything. News that the Trump administration was going to consider restarting interrogation practices such as waterboarding provoked Ryan to speak out against the new president's plans:
“Torture is illegal,” he told reporters during a Republican retreat in Philadelphia. “We agree with it not being legal.”
February: “Comments of moral equivalency do bother me”
We learned that the FBI is investigating Trump's ties to Russia. And then Trump said this about Russian President Vladimir Putin:
“There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers,” he told Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly. “Well, you think our country is so innocent?”
Ryan, and the rest of the Republican Party, recoiled from that. In a Feb. 15 interview with MSNBC's “Morning Joe,” Ryan criticized the president, saying, “Comments of moral equivalency do bother me. … I do not subscribe to any notion of a moral equivalency between Russia, which is killing people, invading other nations, and the United States of America.”
But Ryan found a way to soften the criticism with praise: “And I do believe that Donald Trump is a guy who has good relationships, who knows how to get deals done.”
March: “I got really thick skin.”
As Republicans are struggling to pass health-care reform, pro-Trump website Breitbart News publishes audio from the campaign of Ryan telling his Republican colleagues that he is “not going to defend Donald Trump” after a lewd "Access Hollywood" tape surfaced. " … I have real concerns with our nominee,” Ryan says.
Ryan brushes off the recording: “That is ancient history,” he told Fox News's Martha MacCallum in a March 14 interview. " … It’s no secret Donald and I had our ups and downs, the president and I had our ups and down. But we merged forces at the end of the campaign. … And since then, we’ve been working hand in glove together.”
Also in March: “This is a power we haven't seen since Ronald Reagan”
Speaking of hand-in-glove, Ryan makes seven appearances in seven days selling their embattled health-care bill; Trump barely mentions it at a rally. As the “no” votes continue to stack up, Ryan really, really, really wants everyone to know how hard Trump is working on health-care reform.
“We meet with them constantly, daily. … The president is all in on this,” he told CNN's Jake Tapper.
“This is a power we haven't seen since Ronald Reagan,” Ryan tells reporters.
Also in March: “No such wiretap exists”
Ryan is forced to yet again counter Trump, this time on the president's unfounded wiretapping claims: “At least so far with respect to our intelligence community — no such wiretap existed,” he told reporters March 16.
Also in March: Trump sends mixed messages about Ryan's leadership
Trump tells reporters that Paul Ryan should stay on as Speaker if the health care vote fails pic.twitter.com/wwT734GVx8
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) March 24, 2017
Republicans' health-care bill falls apart. In public, Trump is supportive of Ryan, but behind the scenes, his aides say he's upset.
The New York Times reports March 23 that Trump said he regretted going along with Ryan's plan to reform health care before taxes.
He said ruefully this week that he should have done tax reform first when it became clear that the quick-hit health care victory he had hoped for was not going to materialize on Thursday
When the bill finally gets pulled, Trump calls The Washington Post's Robert Costa and says:
“I don’t blame Paul. I don’t blame Paul. He worked very hard on this. I don’t blame Paul at all.”
The very next day, Trump promotes a Fox News show where the host calls on Ryan to resign.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 25, 2017
(White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus says the tweet was “coincidental.")
April: “Are we different kinds of Republicans and conservatives? Absolutely.”
Republicans' ideological fractures laid bare, the party is now reassessing what it can do with control of Washington.
Ryan stresses unity, unity, unity, despite some of his policy differences with the president's — how hard to push on immigration, whether and when to restart health-care reform and how to pay for infrastructure reform.
“Will you criticize him if you think he crosses the line?” WNYC's “Indivisible” host Charlie Sykes asks in an April 5 interview.
“Sure, of course,” Ryan replies. " … Are we different kinds of Republicans and conservatives? Absolutely. You know that.”
He goes on: “I want to see Donald Trump succeed, because if Donald Trump succeeds as president, America succeeds as a country.”