Chuck Todd grilled House Speaker Paul Ryan over why he still supported Donald Trump despite their serious rhetorical and policy differences.
In an interview on “Meet The Press” that aired Sunday, the NBC host asked Ryan how he could support a presumptive Republican nominee whom Ryan denounced for making racist statements.
“You said about Donald Trump – that the Muslim ban is un-American, against American values. You thought he made a racist statement. How are you comfortable still supporting him?” Todd asked, referring to Trump’s plan to bar Muslims from entering the US.
The speaker said that his endorsement was meant to unify the party and promised to continue criticizing Trump where they diverge on policy issues.
“Imagine the Speaker of the House not supporting the duly elected nominee of our party, therefore creating a chasm in our party to split us in half, which basically helps deny us the White House and strong majorities in Congress,” Ryan said.
“The last thing I want to see happen is another Democrat in the White House. I don’t want see Hillary Clinton as president. I want to see a strong majority in the House and the Senate. And I think the way to achieve those goals is to have a more unified party, than a dis-unified party,” he added.
Todd quickly jumped on Ryan’s response.
“You just made a case though of party over country,” Todd said.
“No, I didn’t,” Ryan replied. “I know Hillary Clinton won’t agree with anything we want to do.”
She’ll put a bad judge on the Supreme Court. She won’t agree with any of the conservative reforms we’re trying to do. I have spoken with our nominee a number of times about our agenda, about conservative principles, and about the policies we need to put in place in order to save the country. And we have so much more common ground than any other thing.
The “Meet The Press” host repeatedly pressed the speaker to elaborate on the areas where he differed from Trump and asked Ryan why he trusted the real-estate magnate when his top campaign staffers have waffled on whether Trump will enforce certain proposals like the Muslim ban if Trump is elected.
“If he runs this way, and loses, he stains the Republican Party,” Todd said. “And then suddenly not only do you lose the White House, but now you’ve got to explain your support for him. And a lot of other people have to explain why the party went to him, and it was a disaster, if that’s what it comes to.”
Ryan emphasized that Trump bested the field of Republican contenders and claimed it wasn’t the speaker’s responsibility to tell Republican voters whom to support in the primary.
“He won the election. The voters voted for him. That’s the point. He’s winning. He won the delegates. That’s the choice they made. This isn’t a top-down party where a handful of people pick our nominee and the president. The voters picked him,” Ryan replied. “That’s the choice they made.”
For his part, Trump hasn’t expressed much patience with recent criticism from Republican Party leaders.
In a speech on Wednesday in Atlanta, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee lashed out at Republican Party leaders who condemned Trump’s proposed Muslim ban.
“You know the Republicans – honestly folks, our leaders, our leaders have to get tougher,” Trump said. “This is too tough to do it alone, but you know what I think I’m going to be forced to. I think I’m going to be forced to. Our leaders have to get a lot tougher.”
“And be quiet,” he continued. “Just please be quiet. Don’t talk. Please be quiet. Just be quiet.”