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Paul Ryan on Trump: ‘He’s just new to this’
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan holds his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill. EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

As Comey delivered his gripping testimony across the Capitol complex, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) greeted a lighter-than-customary crowd of reporters at their weekly news conference Thursday morning.

“We thought there was nothing going on around here, so we’d mix things up a little bit,” Ryan said, turning to McCarthy.

“He said nothing else would be happening in Washington, that this would be a packed crowd,” McCarthy said before launching a presentation on the House agenda. “That was a joke.”

But once the presentation wrapped up, Ryan was peppered with questions about the dominant news of the day — which he answered by defending Trump’s behavior as described in Comey’s seven-page written statement.

“People now realize why the president is so frustrated when the FBI director tells him on three different occasions he is not under investigation, yet the speculation swirls around the political system that he is — that’s frustrating,” Ryan said.

He added: “I would just say that of course there needs to be a degree of independence between [the Department of Justice], FBI and the White House and a line of communications established. The president’s new at this. He’s new to government, and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White Houses. He’s just new to this.”

Ryan was later pressed on whether Trump’s behavior can be excused out of inexperience.

“I’m not saying it’s an acceptable excuse,” he said. “It’s just my observation.”

James Comey testimony: Updates and reaction

Former FBI director James B. Comey is set to testify today in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.; a closed hearing is to start at 1 p.m.

Comey’s testimony was previewed on Wednesday in written remarks in which he describes President Trump’s demand of loyalty and the investigations.