Ryan endorses GOP incumbent over Grimm

Ryan endorses GOP incumbent over Grimm
© Greg Nash

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.) on Wednesday endorsed Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.), who is facing a primary challenge from former lawmaker and felon Michael Grimm.

When asked at a Capitol news conference if it was appropriate for Grimm, who served seven months in prison, to run for his old Staten Island seat, Ryan said flatly: “I support Dan Donovan, plain and simple.”

Grimm announced his resignation from the House in late 2014 after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion. He’s now trying to unseat Donovan, who was one of the 20 Republicans to vote against the House bill to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law known commonly as ObamaCare.

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Grimm has secured the support of Stephen Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist and head of Breitbart News. Bannon is also planning to wage primary challenges against incumbent GOP senators in 2018, which Senate Republicans worry could endanger their majority. He previously endorsed conservative firebrand Roy Moore, who defeated incumbent Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeRoy Moore Facebook page shares provocative memes on NFL anthem protests Poll: Moore has lead, Dems see opportunity in Ala. Senate race GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers MORE (R-Ala.) in the GOP Senate special election primary.

Grimm told Newsweek that Bannon is “very excited” about his campaign to unseat Donovan.

Ryan called for unity and pivoted to tax reform when asked if President Trump should try to ask Bannon to stand down from recruiting primary challengers.

“It’s a free country, people can do what they want to do. I think the best thing for the Republican Party is to stay unified and focus on our shared agenda. The best way for us to help people and advance our principles is that we stay unified and advance this agenda that we’re working on, like tax reform,” Ryan said.

Before serving jail time, Grimm drew national attention in 2014 for threatening to throw a New York reporter off a balcony in the Capitol for asking about an investigation into his campaign finances.

“I’ll break you in half. Like a boy,” Grimm told the reporter.

Before his stint in Congress, Grimm was a Marine veteran who went on to serve as an undercover FBI agent. He was released from prison in May 2016.

Donovan served as Staten Island district attorney before succeeding Grimm in 2015.

Democrats are also trying to target Donovan in next year’s midterm elections, although the district is considered the most Republican-leaning part of New York City.