Ryan: GOP not Donald Trump's party

Although Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE won the nomination “fair and square,” the GOP is not his party, Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Gun proposal picks up GOP support GOP lawmaker Tim Murphy to retire at end of term MORE (R-Wis.) said Monday on a local radio show.

“It is no one person’s party. Donald Trump won the primary fair and square,” Ryan said during an interview on WTMJ in Milwaukee after conservative host Charlie Sykes asked if the GOP was now Trump’s party.

“As a party leader, as the highest elected official in the party, I have always felt a duty to the process, to democracy, to the primary voter who must be respected. And he won this fair and square,” Ryan added. “But no one person controls this party. This is a bottom-up, organic grassroots party based on conservative principles.”

Trump and Ryan have had a contentious relationship all year. The Speaker condemned the billionaire’s proposed Muslim ban as unconstitutional and said his attacks on a Mexican-American judge were the “textbook definition” of racism.

Ryan also hesitated to endorse Trump once he appeared to have locked up the nomination, only to back him at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland weeks later. But when a tape emerged last month of Trump bragging about forcibly groping and kissing women, Ryan held a conference call with Republicans and announced he could no longer defend or campaign with Trump through Election Day.

Trump loyalists vowed they'd seek revenge on Ryan.

Facing those threats, Ryan has warmed significantly to Trump in the closing days of the election, sounding a note of unity as he's stumped around the country and Wisconsin. The Speaker announced last week he had cast a ballot for Trump, wrote an op-ed for CNN urging voters to back Trump and offered over the weekend to campaign with the GOP nominee. A joint Trump-Ryan event never happened, however.

Sykes, a vocal Trump critic throughout the 2016 campaign cycle, pointed out that a dozen women have stepped forward alleging that Trump had done the very things he boasted about in the “Access Hollywood” video. He then asked why Ryan was suddenly back on Team Trump. 

“What do you think helps [Sen.] Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGun proposal picks up GOP support GOP lawmaker to unveil bill banning gun bump stocks Senate Homeland Security chairman backs bump-stock ban after Las Vegas shootings MORE and Mike Gallagher and all our candidates across the country more in the closing two days of an election: having party discord and having party leaders snub each other, or unifying the Republican Party and focusing and prosecuting our case against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE?" Ryan responded.

“What helps Republicans more: infighting or unifying, focusing on Clinton or focusing on our differences as Republicans?” the Speaker continued. “I don’t want to harm our team going into the election. I want to unify our team going into the election so as many of our candidates as possible can win this election.”

For the third time in four days, Ryan also pushed back on a story in The Hill in which four GOP lawmakers speculated that the Speaker would step down after Tuesday’s election.

“They love doing these intrigue stories. It’s because I didn’t ask for this job in the first place, so they are saying why would he want to keep it now?” Ryan said.

“I am going to stay. You know why? Because I moved our majority to put out a very coherent agenda. We have it, we’re running on it, now I want to stay and execute it.”