- Mark Wilson/Getty Images
House Speaker Paul Ryan told Republican members of Congress on a Monday conference call that he would not defend Donald Trump or campaign for him through the remainder of the election season, a source on the call said.
“The speaker is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities,” Zack Roday, the press secretary for the speaker’s political office, later said in a statement.
According to the source on the call, Ryan told members to “do what’s best for you in your district.”
Ryan, however, maintained his endorsement of the brash billionaire.
“There is no update in his position at this time,” Roday said.
Ryan also told Republicans that he was willing to endure political pressure and do what was necessary to protect the GOP majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives, the source on the call said. The source said Ryan would spend his “entire energy” making sure Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton does not get a “blank check” with congressional majorities.
The House speaker has campaign events for members of Congress scheduled in 17 states and 42 cities in October.
Trump responded to the news by taking a shot at Ryan on Twitter:
Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2016
Jason Miller, a spokesman for Trump, added on Twitter that “nothing’s changed.”
“Mr. Trump’s campaign has always been powered by a grassroots movement, not Washington,” he said.
A firestorm was ignited Friday when a 2005 audio tape leaked in which Trump boasted about kissing and groping women.
Trump apologized for the remarks in a video published just after midnight on Saturday, but many congressional Republicans are worried the comments and Trump’s high negatives could put their own races in jeopardy.
An avalanche of prominent Republicans condemned Trump’s comments in the video, and some, including John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican, have gone as far as to call on the billionaire to step down as the nominee and hand the ticket over to his running mate, Mike Pence.
Trump has refused to obey such calls. Instead, he doubled down during Sunday night’s presidential debate, deflecting criticism over his lewd comments in part by pointing to former President Bill Clinton’s history with women.
The relationship between Trump and Ryan has been lukewarm throughout the election.
Ryan shocked the political world when he initially refused to offer Trump his endorsement after the real-estate tycoon had secured the GOP nomination. The House speaker later endorsed Trump, explaining that he thought the billionaire would be the better partner to work with to push through a conservative policy agenda.