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 RyanSaagar Enjeti: Crenshaw's conservatism will doom future of GOP Retirees should say 'no thanks' to Romney's Social Security plan California Governor Newsom and family dress as 2020 Democrats for Halloween 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 McCarthyHarris introduces bill to prevent California wildfires McCarthy says views on impeachment won't change even if Taylor's testimony is confirmed House Republicans call impeachment hearing 'boring,' dismiss Taylor testimony as hearsay MORE (Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseFox's Neil Cavuto rips into Trump over attacks on Chris Wallace's impeachment coverage This week: Round 2 of House impeachment inquiry hearings Trump rips 'nasty' and 'obnoxious' Chris Wallace after he presses Scalise about impeachment 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 TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed 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 RosensteinDemocrats ask judge to force McGahn to comply with subpoena Democrats ask court to force DOJ's hand on Mueller grand jury materials Washington celebrates diplomacy — and baseball — at Meridian Ball MORE or special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' 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 RomneyDeval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field Jon Huntsman expected to run for governor in Utah 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.