Everywhere Republicans turn, it’s all Trump

Everywhere Republicans turn, it’s all Trump
© Greg Nash

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAppeals court rules House chaplain can reject secular prayers FEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday MORE (R-Wis.) wanted to talk about poverty at his press conference on Tuesday, but the media was intently focused on a billionaire businessman running for president.

After unveiling the House GOP’s new plan on combating poverty at a drug rehabilitation facility in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C., Ryan opened up the media briefing for questions.

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The first round of questions centered on Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone MORE, the real estate mogul and presumptive GOP presidential nominee who shocked the political world by recently launching racial attacks on a Mexican-American federal judge.

Do you regret your endorsement of Trump?

Do Trump’s racial remarks undercut your GOP agenda?

What do you think about Trump doubling down on his statement that Judge Gonzalo Curiel can’t be fair because of his Mexican heritage?

And how can you continue to support Trump when he’s making racist comments?

Right out of the gate, Ryan disavowed Trump’s remarks, calling them the “textbook definition” of racism.

“I see my job as Speaker of the House to keep our party unified. I think if we go into the fall as a divided party, we are doomed to lose,” said Ryan, in a white shirt sans sports coat and tie, and flanked by some of his GOP chairmen.

“And that is why I’m going to be focused on these ideas and these solutions, and not try to defend the indefensible.”

A Washington Post reporter then interjected, saying he had a policy-specific question. 

“Thank you so much!” Ryan replied with a laugh.

Back at the Capitol, Senate Republicans attending their weekly lunch were dogged by questions about Trump’s racially charged attacks on Curiel. And GOP leaders and rank-and-file members from both sides of the Capitol seemed to twist themselves into pretzels as they rebuked Trump’s comments while continuing to support his presidential bid.

If the mood in the GOP could be gloomier, it was hard to see how.

“This is probably the beginning of Trump unraveling, not the end of it,” la mented one GOP lawmaker who backs Trump. “The honeymoon is over for The Donald.”

Ryan’s news conference kicked off a daylong frenzy over Trump’s racial attacks on Curiel, who was born in East Chicago, Ind., to Mexican parents and now works in Southern California.

Ryan’s Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Mueller report is a deterrent to government service Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age MORE (R-Ky.), was engulfed in a media storm of his own.  

Dozens of reporters jammed the Senate subway area in the basement of the Capitol, ready to swarm lawmakers for comment on Trump after a weeklong absence for Memorial Day. Senate officials nervously paced the area to keep it from devolving into a mob scene.  

After the Senate Republican luncheon, leaders walked to a stakeout in the Ohio Clock Corridor to talk about the schedule and the sluggish economy, but they could tell immediately the assembled throng of reporters wanted to talk only about Trump.

“Get ready for the Trump questions,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTelehealth is calling — will Congress pick up? GOP grows tired of being blindsided by Trump Hillicon Valley: Assange faces US charges after arrest | Trump says WikiLeaks 'not my thing' | Uber officially files to go public | Bezos challenges retail rivals on wages | Kremlin tightens its control over internet MORE (S.D.) quipped to Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn Cornyn Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Trump struggles to reshape Fed Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks MORE (Texas) as they approached the television cameras.

Reporters shouted over each other to ask McConnell questions about whether he thinks Trump is a racist.

McConnell, who is fond of saying he has “many faults, but getting off message is not one of them,” refused to take the bait. He pointed instead to his round of media interviews last week that expressed disapproval, but stopped short of labeling Trump’s comments as racist.

“I spent the last week in a number of interviews on the subject of our nominee and his comments. I expressed my disapproval over and over and over again to a variety of different ones. I don’t have anything to add,” he said.

But that offering didn’t satisfy the media scrum, and the questions kept coming until McConnell vented his frustration with the GOP standard-bearer.

“And my advice to our nominee would be to start talking about the issues that the American people care about and to start doing it now,” the Senate leader said, his irritation flashing.

“In addition to that, it’s time to quit attacking various people that you competed with or with various minority groups in the country and get on message,” McConnell added. “This election is eminently winnable.”

While Republicans on Tuesday tried to dodge questions on Trump, Democrats were quite willing to talk about him.

At their weekly press conference, Senate Democratic leaders mentioned Trump by name at least 15 times. 

Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSanders courts GOP voters with 'Medicare for All' plan Glamorization of the filibuster must end Schumer won't rule out killing filibuster MORE (Nev.), who is not known for being subtle, said, “I think it’s clear now that the Republican Party is the party of Donald Trump. ... [GOP leaders’] insistence on supporting those who make racist comments help pave the way for Donald Trump.” 

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage Former FBI official praises Barr for 'professional' press conference MORE (N.Y.), who is expected to become the upper chamber’s top Democrat next year, noted that Senate Republicans are “squirming and twisting, trying to find their way out of the Trump straitjacket.”

Toward the end of the press conference, Reid was asked about recent reports that have suggested he wants Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump pushes back on impeachment talk: 'Tables are finally turning on the Witch Hunt!' Warren unveils plan to cancel student loan debt, create universal free college Moulton enters 2020 White House race MORE (D-Mass.) to be Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIt is wrong to say 'no collusion' 10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era And the winner of the Robert Mueller Sweepstakes is — Vladimir Putin MORE’s running mate.

Reid, staying on the message of the day of attacking Trump and GOP leaders, said, “I’m saying no more on that. Period.”