Retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed critics who say he enabled the Republican Party's total capitulation to President Donald Trump and his divisive approach to politics.
On Friday's Meet the Press, Ryan spoke with host Chuck Todd about Trump, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and fired FBI Director James Comey's new book. His retirement imminent, Ryan's interview with Todd was an attempt to shape his legacy, which could forever be tarnished by his willingness to support Trump's agenda while excoriating him for racially insensitive comments Trump made during the 2016 presidential campaign.
"Enabling ― So, so what did we do?"
EXCLUSIVE @SpeakerRyan announced his retirement this week.On Friday, he sat down with Chuck to discuss the state of… https://t.co/TNiyqXjHed— Meet the Press (@Meet the Press)1523804415.0
When asked if he and Trump shared the same vision for the future of the Republican party, Ryan replied, "you'd have to ask him that." And although they have some policy differences, Ryan said he and the president were "rolling in the same direction" on most major issues.
"Sure, no two people are going to agree on everything," Ryan said. "We have different styles. We have different ideas. But it's a big tent party. And we represent different corners of the tent."
EARLIER: With Paul Ryan's retirement, has Trumpism triumphed? The #MTP panel discusses this morning. https://t.co/IfisMaCyt6— Meet the Press (@Meet the Press)1523807164.0
"But Ryan rarely challenged the President on anything."
.@SpeakerRyan could have been a check on Trump. But Ryan rarely challenged the President on anything. They had real… https://t.co/zbk4UFBx2X— Chris Matthews (@Chris Matthews)1523466988.0
Todd then pressed Ryan on whether "Trumpism," rather than "Ryanism," had become the mainstay of the GOP, by quoting Wisconsin radio host Charlie Sykes.
"When people write the history of this era, it will be the triumph of Trumpism over Ryanism, and that's got to be a bitter pill to swallow."
The Speaker defended his positions, emphasizing that his main goal in coming to Washington in the first place was to update the tax code.
"No, I just don't see it like that," Ryan replied. "One of the first things I fought for when I first got here was tax reform... that is now done," he said.
He also spoke about his desire to reform entitlements and healthcare.
"The one thing that obviously I care deeply about is entitlement reform, in particular healthcare entitlement reform. I feel gratified that ever since I was budget chair, every term the House has passed a budget that has paid down the debt, but we have not gotten that through the Senate or the White House."
In reality, the federal deficit has increased, drastically, during Ryan's tenure as Speaker in the era of Trump. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is projected to add $1.3 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, and since Trump took office, the federal deficit has ballooned from $587 billion in President Obama's last year in office to $666 billion in Trump's first year. Additionally, the national debt has topped $21 trillion dollars, negating Trump's and Ryan's promises to rein in federal spending and reduce the nation's financial liabilities.
annual deficits as a share of US economy: Obama’s second term 4.1%, 2.8%, 2.4%, 3.2% Trump’s first term 3.5%, (p… https://t.co/CBltVXVx2e— John Harwood (@John Harwood)1523300176.0
On the issue of whether or not Congress should pass a bill protecting Special Counsel Robert Mueller from a potential Trump firing, Ryan indicated that he would not support it, because he does not see it as necessary.
EXCLUSIVE: @SpeakerRyan tells Chuck it would be a "huge mistake" if Trump were to fire Robert Mueller. #MTP https://t.co/fVOu9TaeVD— Meet the Press (@Meet the Press)1523817497.0
He did, however, tell Todd that he does not believe Trump will try to fire Mueller, who appears to be closing in on the president after FBI agents raided the homes and office of Michael Cohen, Trump's long-time personal attorney and "fixer."
"I don't think he should be fired. I think he should be left to do his job," Ryan said of Mueller. "And I don't think they're really contemplating this."
Trump has publicly toyed with the idea of firing Mueller and is reportedly considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, to whom Mueller answers and who is currently the only person with the authority to fire the special counsel.
Without mentioning Mueller, Trump lawyers urge high court to bolster his power to fire executive officials… https://t.co/M7N7AprJmO— Mike Scarcella (@Mike Scarcella)1523806731.0
What happens if Trump fires Rosenstein? https://t.co/RM44D09Xbf https://t.co/sItOopQOQK— POLITICO (@POLITICO)1523773269.0
Todd also asked Ryan if Trump's attacks on law enforcement, as outlined in Comey's upcoming book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, should be met with more resistance by members of Congress. He was also asked to respond to Trump's tweets calling Comey a "slimeball."
"Is James Comey a man of integrity?" Todd asked. Ryan's answer was elusive.
"As far as I know, I don't know him very well. Two or three briefings are about what I've had with James Comey."
“I don’t know the guy” @SpeakerRyan said about Comey. This BS response from Paul Ryan is on the same level of Trump… https://t.co/ntsKGiVl3Z— Scott Dworkin (@Scott Dworkin)1523809338.0
Todd pressed Ryan further, asking, "would you take him at his word, would you trust his judgment?" Ryan again answered without really answering.
"I'm not going to try and help sell some books," Ryan said. "I've met him two or three times...I'm not trying to be evasive but what I don't want to do is join in some food fight, some book-selling food fight, I don't see any value in that."