A right-wing website closely tied to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE’s presidential campaign is taking its war against House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanCheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge Paul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book MORE (R-Wis.) to new levels.
Breitbart News on Saturday published as its lead story an article written by Julia Hahn, headlined: “He’s with her: Inside Paul Ryan’s months-long campaign to elect Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll MORE president.”
Accompanying the story is an image of a grinning Ryan beside the Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign slogan, “I’m with her.”
The piece is brutal even by the standards of Breitbart’s proudly scorched-earth approach to journalism, asserting that Ryan “leads the pro-Islamic migration wing of the Republican party.”
The 2,800-word attack on Ryan comes amid a concerted strategy by the pro-Trump nationalist wing of the GOP to ensure Ryan isn’t re-elected Speaker in January.
Influential Fox News host Sean Hannity — a major Trump booster — is leading the charge against Ryan, calling him a “saboteur.” Members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus held a conference call last week in which they discussed challenging Ryan’s leadership role.
The Breitbart piece, which claims that the Speaker has been conspiring for months to “sabotage” Trump, is straight from the playbook of Stephen Bannon, the Breitbart chairman who last month became CEO of Trump’s presidential campaign.
As The Hill revealed earlier this month, Bannon has given private orders to Breitbart’s editorial staff to destroy Ryan. An internal email obtained by The Hill showed Bannon telling senior staff in December 2015 that the “long game” for the news site was for the Speaker to be “gone” by the spring.
This latest anti-Ryan story gives further insight into the Bannon-Trump worldview.
It accuses Ryan and Clinton of being essentially the same person, and of both wanting to destroy the very concept of America as a nation state. This argument neatly dovetails with the language Trump is using in his stump speeches and media interviews.
In an extraordinary situation, the GOP presidential nominee is now using his campaign megaphone to attack not only Clinton, but the highest-ranking elected official in his own party. He's ignored the counsel of GOP establishment figures and is advancing the view that a cabal of “globalist” elitists — which includes Ryan, Clinton and international bankers — are undermining American sovereignty by pushing for open borders in trade and immigration.
Trump’s arguments are neatly reflected in Breitbart’s Saturday article: “Both Clinton and Ryan view being American as an intellectual ‘idea’ rather than a national identity, and both support the donor-class’s agenda of open borders, which ... amounts to doing away with the concept of a nation-state.”
“The divide between progressive globalism and nation-state conservatism,” the piece continues, “perhaps helps to illuminate why Ryan has spent months both quietly and loudly undermining his own party’s nominee for president.”
The attack cites examples of Ryan speaking out against Trump, or refusing to defend him, as evidence that the Speaker has long been out to “sabotage” the GOP presidential nominee.
Ryan has endorsed Trump’s presidential bid, though hardly enthusiastically. He has also maintained that while he's disturbed by much of Trump's rhetoric, he believes a Trump presidency would be better than a Clinton presidency when it comes to passing his policy agenda.
Earlier this month, Ryan walked that political tightrope yet again when he made a public case against Clinton's agenda without mentioning Trump.
Bannon doesn’t buy Ryan’s public claims that he prefers Trump to Clinton, according to multiple sources familiar with his thinking. And that comes through powerfully in the Breitbart attack piece.
“Ryan has seemed much more aggressive in attacking Trump during interviews about the election,” Breitbart asserts, “than he has been in going after Hillary Clinton.”
Breitbart attacks on Ryan are nothing new. During Breitbart’s July coverage of Ryan’s contentious primary race against Wisconsin businessman Paul Nehlen, the website ran a story suggesting Ryan was hypocritical for building a “border wall” around his Janesville mansion when he refused to fully support Trump’s proposed wall along the southern border.
A source close to Ryan told The Hill that the fence was there when Ryan bought the house.
"And it covers only one side of his house," the source added. "Probably not the worst idea to have a fence when you have 3 kids and 3 dogs too."
And when Ryan opposed Trump's plan to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., Breitbart accused the Speaker of hypocrisy because he wanted no "religious test" for who gets admitted into the country yet sent his children to a Catholic school that uses a religious test in its admissions process.
A source close to Bannon told the Hill earlier this week that he wouldn't be surprised if Trump continued attacking Ryan after Nov. 8, as Trump has a long memory and doesn't forget “disloyalty.”
“I fully expect Donald Trump to continue to forcefully expose the danger that Ryan presents to the American public atop the House of Representatives,” the source went on. “If conservatives thought BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge Lobbying world MORE was bad, Ryan is worse.”
“And Trump is going to rip that phony scab off that wound so fast after the election — no matter who wins — it's not even funny.”
- Scott Wong contributed to this report.
- Updated at 9:23 a.m.