Ryan, Trump turn corner in relationship

Greg Nash

Paul Ryan can’t get enough of Donald Trump.

The two Republicans, who memorably tangled throughout the 2016 presidential race, chat on a near daily basis about personnel decisions and the policies they can pursue together.

The House Speaker gave Trump a private tour of the Capitol — showing him where exactly he’ll be sworn in next month — and paid the Manhattan real estate mogul a visit at Trump Tower last week.

{mosads}On Tuesday night, Ryan introduced Trump as part of the president-elect’s thank you tour in his home state, a joint public appearance that never happened during the campaign.

In fact, a previously scheduled Ryan-Trump event in Wisconsin was called off because it was set to occur a day after the release of the “Access Hollywood” video of the president-elect talking lewdly about women.

At the time, it was hard to believe Trump could recover from this low point of his campaign, and it seemed unimaginable that he and Ryan would have a chance to radically reshape the government.

But that’s exactly where things stand roughly a month after Trump’s White House win — at his Tuesday rally, Trump compared Ryan to a “fine wine.”

“I’m impressed with how Donald Trump handles himself. I’m impressed with how magnanimous he is. I’m impressed with just his demeanor, his temperament,” Ryan said during a recent interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Ryan’s appearance on the Hannity show was itself newsworthy. The Fox pundit is a Trump loyalist who days before the election had called Ryan a “saboteur” who needed to be ousted from office.

“What I’m really impressed with is the Cabinet he’s putting together,” Ryan told Hannity. “This is a very good Cabinet.”

Ryan’s newfound affection for Trump has two purposes.

For Ryan, making nice with the president-elect is simply good policy. With the GOP set to run the entire government, Ryan sees a golden opportunity to pass a bold Republican agenda — including tax reform and a repeal and replacement of ObamaCare — that had languished during the Obama presidency.

“Once we ran the table, it was a clear sign that we didn’t need to fight amongst ourselves, and [supporting] each other is the right thing to do,” Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.), a Trump supporter, told The Hill.

It’s also in Ryan’s political interest to keep Trump close.

During the campaign, Trump twice threatened Ryan with political retribution, tweeting that Ryan is “disloyal” and “weak and ineffective.” And former Breitbart executive Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign CEO and incoming White House chief strategist, has made no secret of his disdain for Ryan.

If Ryan crossed Trump, it wouldn’t take much for the commander in chief to turn his army of supporters against the Speaker.

“Speaker Ryan has not changed any deeply held beliefs on what he thinks about Donald Trump,” said one House Republican who has been a vocal supporter of Trump. “Ryan has to deal with the reality of Trump’s election, but his strategy is to be nonconfrontational until he gets enough allies on the inner circle.”

Ryan has loyal allies inside the Trump operation — the kind that should give the Speaker confidence that he can work with the new White House.

Ryan served a dozen years in the House with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who is in charge of the presidential transition effort.

And Trump named one of Ryan’s closest friends in politics, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus, his White House chief of staff. Priebus is expected to bring other top RNC lieutenants to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. as well.

During the long 2016 campaign, Ryan and Trump’s relationship could best be described as frosty.

Just weeks after becoming Speaker in fall 2015, Ryan called Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration unconstitutional and antithetical to conservatism. He ripped Trump’s attacks on a federal judge for his Mexican heritage as “textbook” racism.

He all but abandoned Trump in the closing weeks of the campaign, telling colleagues he would not defend or campaign with the then-GOP nominee after the “Access Hollywood” footage emerged.

Ryan said he was “sickened” by what he heard on the 2005 recording and disinvited Trump from a campaign rally in Wisconsin the two were scheduled to appear at the very next day.

A day before the election, Ryan couldn’t bring himself to say that the GOP was now Trump’s party.

Throughout the entire 18-month campaign, the two men never once appeared in public together, including at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

But none of that seems to matter anymore. Ryan and Trump have put the past — and any bad blood — behind them, agreeing to appear together at the Wisconsin State Fair Exposition Center in West Allis on Tuesday night. While Ryan and Trump talk almost daily, the Speaker said they never venture into uncomfortable territory.

“All of our conversations revolve around getting the big things done.” Ryan told Hannity last week. “So we don’t really talk about what we disagree on because we’re basically trying to execute an agenda.”

In news conferences and other TV interviews, Ryan’s also gone to great lengths to avoid criticizing the man who will become the 45th president and a prominent partner to the new 115th Congress.

The Speaker dismissed Trump’s unprecedented phone call with the new Taiwanese president as “much ado about nothing.”

Ryan defended Trump’s deal providing $7 million in incentives to keep an Indiana manufacturer from sending hundreds of jobs to Mexico.

When asked on CBS’s “60 Minutes” whether he agreed with Trump’s tweet that millions of Americans had voted illegally in the election, Ryan replied: “It doesn’t matter to me. He won the election.”

Tags Donald Trump Mike Pence Paul Ryan
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