Ryan: Family, not Trump or elections, led to retirement decision

Ryan: Family, not Trump or elections, led to retirement decision
© Greg Nash

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPolitical figures pay tribute to Charles Krauthammer House approves five-year farm bill House postpones vote on compromise immigration bill MORE (R-Wis.) said Wednesday he had absolutely “no regrets” for having taken on his leadership role as he announced his retirement from Congress.

“You realize that you hold the office for just a small part of our history, so you better make the most of it. It’s fleeting,” Ryan told reporters after informing his GOP colleagues he would not seek reelection after nearly two decades in Congress.

“And that inspires you to do big things. And on that score, I think we achieved a heck of a lot. ... It’s been a wild ride but it’s been a journey well worth taking to be able to do my part to strengthen the American idea,” he added.

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Ryan insisted the possibility that Republicans will lose their House majority this fall was not a factor in his retirement. Asked if a potential Democratic wave in November had an impact on his decision, Ryan replied: “No, none whatsoever.”

And he brushed off a question about whether his retirement could harm the GOP’s chances to hold the majority. “I really don’t think a person’s race for Congress will hinge on whether Paul Ryan is Speaker or not,” he said.

The 48-year-old Ryan also said he did not believe it would be a problem for him to serve out his term, even as a leadership race intensifies to replace him.

“I have great confidence in this leadership team,” Ryan said of a group that includes two lawmakers — Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump mocks 'elites' at campaign rally Rally crowd chants 'CNN sucks' after Trump rips media Trump's America fights back MORE (Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScalisePolitical figures pay tribute to Charles Krauthammer Trump: GOP needs Dem votes for immigration bills, complains Dems 'won't vote for anything' House GOP leaders push immigration vote to next week MORE (La.), who are likely to battle for the top GOP position in the House.

“That election is in November so it’s not something we have to sweat right now,” said Ryan. He said he had thoughts about who should replace him, but said that it was not the right time to discuss those ideas.

Ryan said the drastic way President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN analyst Kirsten Powers: Melania's jacket should read 'Let them eat cake' CNN's Cuomo confronts Lewandowski over 'womp womp' remark Sessions says FBI agent Peter Strzok no longer has his security clearance MORE has changed Washington also played no role in his decision to leave.“I’m grateful for the president for giving us the opportunity to do big things, to get this country on the right track,” Ryan said.

Ryan and then-candidate Trump clashed repeatedly during the 2016 presidential campaign, but the two men patched things up after Trump won the White House.

During Wednesday’s news conference, Ryan downplayed concerns that Trump might fire Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinGrassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report Top House Dem claims Judiciary chairman's DOJ, FBI subpoena is invalid Republicans tear into IG finding on Clinton probe MORE or special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE due to frustration over the Russia investigation. Ryan has “assurances” from the White House that Trump would not go down that path, he said.

“I think they should be allowed to do their jobs. We have a rule of law in this country, and that's a principle we all uphold,” Ryan said of Rosenstein and Mueller. “I have no reason to believe that [Trump would fire them]. I have assurances that he’s not, because I've been talking to people in the White House about it.”

Ryan said the reason he was leaving Washington was to spend more time with his family. Being Speaker, he said, was one of the top two greatest honors of his life. The other was being a husband and father of three children.

Ryan’s father died when the Ryan was just 16 years old. If he didn’t leave Congress now, Ryan said, his three teenagers would only know him as a “weekend dad.”

“I have been member of Congress for almost two decades; this is my 20th year in Congress,” said Ryan, who served as Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyFormer top Treasury official to head private equity group Romney backs Laura Bush on border: 'We need a more compassionate answer' ‘Three Californias’ plan would give Dems more seats MORE’s running mate on the 2012 GOP ticket. “My kids were not even born when I was first elected … Now, all three of our kids are teenagers. … What I realize is if I am here for one more term, my kids will only have ever known me as weekend dad. I just can’t let that happen.”

Ryan, who previously served as chairman of the Ways and Means and Budget committees, said his greatest accomplishments as Speaker were passing the massive GOP tax cuts package last December and an $1.3 trillion omnibus package that helped address the “military readiness crisis.”

“These I see as lasting victories that will make our country prosperous and more secure for decades to come,” he said.