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House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump

House Republicans are pushing back on former Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats MORE’s (R-Wis.) criticisms of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE, with some arguing the Wisconsin Republican didn’t yield as much power over the president’s decisionmaking as the ex-lawmaker suggested in a new book.

According to an excerpt of “American Carnage” by Politico reporter Tim Alberta, Ryan argued that the president is worse off since he and other officials left their top posts in Washington.

“We helped him make much better decisions, which were contrary to kind of what his knee-jerk reaction was,” Ryan said. “Now I think he’s making some of these knee-jerk reactions.”

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Several congressional Republicans who worked with Ryan in the House took issue Friday with his characterization. 

“I think it's a little bit of revisionist history,” one Republican member told The Hill.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsOvernight Health Care: US sets a new record for average daily coronavirus cases | Meadows on pandemic response: 'We're not going to control it' | Pelosi blasts Trump for not agreeing to testing strategy Hillicon Valley: Hospitals brace for more cyberattacks as coronavirus cases rise | Food service groups offer local alternatives to major delivery apps | Facebook says it helped 4.4M people register to vote Trump is cruising for a bruising MORE (R-N.C.), whose group was often at odds with Ryan, said that while Ryan may have attempted to tamp down policies he didn’t agree with, the president’s instincts on policy resonated more with GOP voters.

“Paul Ryan’s advice typically served to push the president in a direction that would make the swamp happy but most of the people who voted for Donald Trump unhappy,” Meadows said. “The Speaker missed the real reason why the president consistently enjoyed higher approval ratings than anyone in Republican leadership.”

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashEnergized by polls, House Democrats push deeper into GOP territory Ocasio-Cortez draws hundreds of thousands of viewers on Twitch livestream Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones MORE (I-Mich.) — one of Trump’s biggest critics in the House and who recently left the Republican Party — blasted the notion that Ryan stood up to the president during his time as Speaker.

“He was one of Donald Trump's biggest enablers,” Amash said, adding he thinks “it’s ridiculous” that Ryan waited until leaving office to level criticisms at the president.

Other Republicans said they felt top lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote Democrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation GOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg MORE (R-Ky.) and Trump allies within House GOP leadership like Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyRocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire Trump is out of touch with Republican voters on climate change The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Iran, Russia election bombshell; final Prez debate tonight MORE (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats Cedric Richmond's next move: 'Sky's the limit' if Biden wins MORE (R-La.) had the president’s ear on key issues more so than Ryan.

“McCarthy and McConnell had significant impact — it wasn’t just the Ryan show,” another GOP member said.

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The working relationship between the two leaders got off to a rocky start, with Ryan expressing reservations about Trump during the 2016 campaign before eventually endorsing him. And while they managed to come together to achieve significant successes, namely the 2017 GOP tax law, divisions over policy between the two Republican leaders and personality clashes were at times very public, with Trump blasting Ryan on social media.

The president slammed Ryan for coming out against his plan to nullify birthright citizenship, dismissed his push to embrace free trade and opted not to support a stop-gap spending bill, leading to Ryan ending his congressional career during what became the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

“I’d remind people that Paul Ryan was never a Trump supporter and he bailed out on our conference,” one Trump ally told The Hill. “He is no longer relevant.”

Other members dismissed Ryan’s assertion in the book that Trump “didn’t know anything about government.” 

Scalise — who highlighted the accomplishments Ryan and Trump achieved despite “not seeing eye to eye” on certain issues — defended the president’s understanding of government by citing Trump’s remarks on different policy areas during a trip to Camp David and their discussions while working on the 2017 GOP tax law.

“I wouldn't agree with that assessment if that's what Paul said, because I was in meetings with Paul, and the president, on a number of issues and the president is well versed on domestic policy,” he told reporters.

Rep. Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedAn investment in R&D is an investment in America's future Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Trump fuels and frustrates COVID-19 relief talks MORE (R-N.Y.) said while Trump’s approach to governing may be unconventional, he doesn’t see his decision to break the status quo as a negative.

“I think, you know, the power of President Trump is he's a disrupter,” Reed said. “The status quo of D.C. has to change and the president was changing it. And I'm a big fan of a disrupter in this town, because this town, if you think it's working, then you're in the wrong business.”

Even though Ryan kept much of his criticisms of Trump to a minimum while in office, multiple lawmakers said they were not surprised by his decision to go public now.

“I think it's been a long time coming. I don't think anybody on this floor is surprised that the two of them have a moment,” one GOP member said. “Much of that was contained when he was Speaker, but now that he's not he says what he feels.”

Trump was quick to attack Ryan following the release of the experts, accusing Ryan of being a “the failed V.P. candidate & former Speaker of the House, whose record of achievement was atrocious” and casting blame on him for the loss of the House on Twitter.

But some jumped to Ryan’s defense, including his 2012 running mate.

“The fault for our 2012 loss is mine alone; @SpeakerRyan was a tireless campaigner, fundraiser, and conservative champion. As the sole person who could unite the House, he acquiesced to be Speaker as a service to the country,” Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Memo: Five reasons why Trump could upset the odds Will anyone from the left realize why Trump won — again? Ratings drop to 55M for final Trump-Biden debate MORE (R-Utah) tweeted.

“His selfless leadership and lifelong policy work were critical to the tax and regulatory reform that have helped propel the economy. A man like Paul Ryan does not often come along,” he continued.

Veteran Republican strategist Doug Heye said that while some lawmakers have criticized Ryan for not saying more while in office, they may not be taking into account the level of pressure and difficulty of the circumstances he faced.

“Paul Ryan was under enormous pressure again, you know, to kind of keep the House as a functioning, working organization. And it's why, you know, I had tremendous empathy for him. And sometimes I was disappointed, sure, but I always had sympathy for that for the job that he was trying to do,” Heye said.

“You know, any member who's critical of Ryan on this — and there may be valid criticisms — but if they're saying it on the record, that also tells me, you know, that they want to be seen as kind of reassuring this White House: I'm with you every step of the way,” he said.