Trump and Ryan’s rocky history


It’s been a long, winding road for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Donald Trump.

{mosads}The relationship between the Republican Party’s highest-ranking elected official and its 2016 presidential nominee has been fraught with tension from the start.

Their uneasy alliance was slated to come to a head on Saturday with Trump planning to campaign in Ryan’s southeastern Wisconsin district. But what would have been a sign of a thaw between the two came to a screeching halt after the Washington Post published audio of Trump from 2005 making lewd comments about groping women.

It’s only the latest bump, though, in their rocky relationship. Here’s a timeline of how Ryan and Trump got to this point.


Dec. 8, 2015: Ryan condemns Trump’s proposed Muslim ban 

It was the first of many times the Speaker distanced himself from his party’s presidential standard-bearer. Nobody had cast a vote in the GOP primary yet, but Ryan took what was an unusual step at the time to publicly condemn a proposal from the contest’s then-frontrunner. Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from the U.S. after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., Ryan said, “is not what this party stands for, and more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.” 

“This is not conservatism,” Ryan said sternly. Yet he emphasized that he’d support whoever won the GOP presidential nomination, even if it turned out to be Trump. 


Feb. 17 17, 2016: Trump blames GOP’s 2012 loss on Ryan

Trump appeared to blame Mitt Romney’s loss in the 2012 presidential election on his selection of Ryan as his running mate. While answering a question about Social Security during a South Carolina campaign event, Trump argued Romney was hurt by Ryan’s proposals to curb Social Security and other entitlement programs. The real estate mogul pledged that he wouldn’t cut entitlements if elected president, in contrast to his primary rivals. “That was the end of that campaign, by the way, when they chose Ryan. And I like him, he’s a nice person, but that was the end of the campaign. I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding — because he represented cutting entitlements, et cetera, et cetera.’ The only one that’s not going to cut is me,” Trump told an audience at a retirement community. 


March 1, 2016: Ryan scolds Trump over white supremacists

Trump had come under fire for repeatedly declining to disavow support from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. He later blamed a bad earpiece during a CNN interview. On the day of the crucial Super Tuesday primaries, Ryan delivered a scathing rebuke of Trump without explicitly mentioning him by name. 

“I try to stay out of the ups and downs of the primary, but I’ve also said when I see something that runs counter to who we are as a party and a country, I will speak up,” Ryan said. “If a person wants to be the nominee of the party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry.”

Ryan expressed ill-fated hope he wouldn’t have to admonish anyone in the unwieldy GOP presidential primary again. “I hope this is the last time I have to speak out on this race,” he said.


March 1, 2016: Trump threatens Ryan

Hours after Ryan called on Trump to squarely reject bigotry, Trump delivered a vague threat to the Speaker during his Super Tuesday victory speech. “I’m going to get along great with Congress. Paul Ryan, I don’t know him well, but I’m sure I’m going to get along great with him,” Trump said. “And if I don’t, he’s going to have to pay a big price.”

Ryan, for his part, brushed it off two days later. He told reporters that he had been watching Trump’s speech live in his Capitol office when he heard his name. “I just laughed out loud, I think,” Ryan said. “Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction these days.”


March 14, 2016: Ryan repudiates violence at Trump rallies

So much for not having to speak out on the race again. Republicans were growing worried about violence at recent Trump campaign rallies, including one in North Carolina where a supporter was arrested for punching a protester in the face. Trump himself had said at another Las Vegas rally in February that he’d “like to punch [a protester] in the face.” 

In an interview with a Wisconsin radio station, Ryan said that presidential candidates should be held responsible for the tenor of their events.

“I’d make two points about this violence and these rallies: First, there’s obviously an effort by some on the left to shut down these rallies and to stir unrest. We should never condone that. We have a long history of peaceful protest, but creating this kind of drama isn’t good for anybody, and it’s unacceptable,” Ryan said.

“At the same time, I think the candidates need to take responsibility for the environment at their events. There is never an excuse for condoning violence, or even a culture that presupposes it.”


May 5, 2016: Ryan declines to endorse Trump

Ryan’s Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), had officially fallen into line behind Trump after the real estate mogul effectively won the GOP presidential primary. A day later, Ryan stunned the political world in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper where he declared he was “just not ready” to support Trump as the party’s presidential nominee. 

Despite saying for months that he’d back whoever won the nomination, Ryan said, “I’m not there right now. And I hope to, though, and I want to.”

The decision by Ryan, who was slated to serve as chairman of the GOP convention, to withhold an endorsement further strained the divisions left by the bruising GOP primary. He did, however, give a heads up to McConnell before going on CNN.

“I think what a lot of Republicans want to see is that we have a standard-bearer that bears our standards and that unifies all the wings of the Republican Party,” Ryan said.

Trump promptly fired back, saying he was “not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda.”


May 12, 2016: Ryan meets with Trump and Reince Priebus on Capitol Hill

A week after Ryan’s bombshell announcement, Trump met with the Speaker and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Capitol Hill. Priebus hoped to navigate a detente between Ryan and Trump, but no endorsement came out of the meeting. 

The two issued a joint statement afterward saying they had a “great conversation.” “While we were honest about our few differences, we recognize that there are also many important areas of common ground,” they said.


June 2, 2016: Ryan endorses Trump 

Reports surfaced in late May that Ryan’s awaited endorsement of Trump was imminent, which the Speaker’s office denied. At that point, Ryan had become the only member of House GOP leadership to refrain from formally backing Trump. 

A week later, Ryan made it official in the form of an op-ed in his hometown Wisconsin newspaper while the House was out of session. The Speaker justified his decision by arguing that Trump was more likely to enact the House GOP’s policy agenda than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But he made clear that he’d still call Trump out on occasion if necessary.

“It’s no secret that he and I have our differences. I won’t pretend otherwise. And when I feel the need to, I’ll continue to speak my mind. But the reality is, on the issues that make up our agenda, we have more common ground than disagreement,” Ryan wrote.

Ryan’s endorsement came as GOP leaders prepared to formally unveil their official policy platform, titled “A Better Way,” over the course of June.


June 6, 2016: Ryan calls Trump’s comments about Mexican-American judge ‘textbook’ racism

It wasn’t the “Better Way” rollout Ryan had planned. At an event to tout the House GOP’s policy solutions for poverty, Ryan was instead peppered with questions about Trump’s latest controversy: the nominee’s accusation that Gonzalo Curiel, a judge overseeing a case against Trump University, would be biased because of his Mexican heritage. A week into his endorsement of Trump, Ryan fueled the firestorm by calling the nominee’s attacks on the judge “the textbook definition of racist comments.” 

“I’m not going to even pretend to defend them,” Ryan said, adding they should be “absolutely disavowed.” Yet he repeatedly maintained that he’d back the nominee because the policy agenda, including the poverty reform proposals unveiled that day, were more likely to become law with Trump in the White House. 


July 5, 2016: Ryan tells Trump to clean up his tweets

Trump found himself in trouble over the July Fourth weekend after he tweeted a photo of Clinton next to what resembled a six-pointed Star of David and the words “Most corrupt candidate ever.” Jewish groups derided the image as anti-Semitic, leading the Trump campaign to eventually delete the Twitter post. When asked for his response to the dustup during a Wisconsin radio interview, Ryan replied: “Look, anti-Semitic images, they’ve got no place in a presidential campaign.” He added that Trump’s team should work on its social media strategy. “I really believe he’s got to clean up how his new media works,” Ryan said. “I understand this was done by staff and not by he himself. … They’ve got to clean this up.”


July 19, 2016: Ryan speaks at Trump’s convention – but barely mentions him by name

Ryan found himself presiding over Trump’s coronation at the GOP convention in Cleveland despite his own clear misgivings about the nominee. On the first day of the convention, Ryan acknowledged at a Wall Street Journal lunch that Trump is “not my kind of conservative.” And on the second night, hours after Trump officially became the nominee, Ryan only mentioned Trump twice over the course of a nearly 1,500 word prime-time speech. Instead, Ryan promoted conservative policy platitudes and framed the GOP nominee as an opportunity for change after eight years under President Obama. One of his mentions of Trump and vice presidential nominee Mike Pence was clearly a peg for the House GOP policy agenda: “Only with Donald Trump and Mike Pence do we have a chance at a better way,” Ryan said.


Aug. 2, 2016: Trump drags out endorsing Ryan against primary challenger

Any attempt at unity during the GOP convention didn’t last long. After watching Ryan initially refuse to endorse him, Trump returned the favor three months later by declining to endorse the Speaker over a long-shot primary challenger. Trump even mirrored the same language used by Ryan during an interview with the Washington Post. “I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.” Trump had also thanked Ryan’s opponent, Paul Nehlen, on Twitter a day earlier for his “kind words.” Ryan’s team retorted that they had never asked for Trump’s endorsement.

Ryan and other GOP leaders had been critical of Trump’s feud with the parents of deceased U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan over their speech at the Democratic convention. 

GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence broke with his running mate to endorse Ryan, a close friend. Trump eventually relented to pressure and endorsed Ryan, and also backed Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) a few days later at a rally in Wisconsin.


Sept. 15, 2016: Ryan says Trump should release his tax returns

Ryan largely avoided commenting on Trump while the House was in session in September. He did, however, break with Trump on Russian President Vladimir Putin and releasing tax returns to the public. When asked at a weekly Capitol news conference about Trump’s praise for Putin, Ryan described the Russian leader as an “aggressor that does not share our interests.” When asked specifically if he was concerned about Trump’s embrace, Ryan replied: “I made my points about Putin clear. I’ll just leave it at that.”

A week later, Ryan said Trump should release his tax returns just like he did when running for vice president in 2012. Trump cited an ongoing IRS audit as the reason why he won’t release his tax returns, even though the agency has said he can still choose to release them anyway. “I released mine. I think he should release his. I’ll leave it to him when to do it,” Ryan said. 


Oct. 7, 2016: Ryan and Trump decide against campaigning together after all

Ryan’s team announced the joint campaign appearance in a somewhat awkward fashion this week. The subject line in a press release announcing the event said only: “Paul Ryan to Attend Annual Fall Fest in Walworth County.” Only in the third paragraph was it mentioned that Trump would also be at the event in Ryan’s district. Sources familiar with the planning said that Trump had expressed interest in doing an event with Ryan.

The Speaker then extended an invitation to the annual “Fall Fest” on Saturday that he and other Wisconsin officials regularly attend. But that changed after the Washington Post published audio late Friday afternoon of Trump making vulgar comments about seducing and groping women. Hours later, Ryan issued a blistering statement saying that he was “sickened” by what he heard in the tape and announced Trump would no longer attend the event in his district.

The Trump campaign soon said afterward that Pence would go to the “Fall Fest” in Trump’s place.

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton John McCain Kelly Ayotte Mike Pence Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan
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