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Read Paul Ryan’s Interview About Not Supporting Donald Trump Yet

19 minute read

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said Thursday that he is “not there yet” on supporting Donald Trump, the presumptive presidential nominee for his party.

As the highest-ranking elected Republican, Ryan has criticized the divisive politics of the 2016 campaign and said Thursday that Trump needs to reassure conservative voters he shares their values.

Here is a transcript of Ryan’s interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

JAKE TAPPER, HOST: And joining me now, the speaker of the House of Representatives, former Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

Speaker Ryan, thanks so much for joining us.

RYAN: Thanks for having me, Jake. How are you doing today?

TAPPER: So, Mr. Speaker, you have said throughout this process that you will support the Republican presidential nominee. Now you have a presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. Will you support him?

RYAN: Well, to be perfectly candid with you, Jake, I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now. And I hope to, though, and I want to. But I think what is required is that we unify the party. And I think The bulk of the burden on unifying the party will have to come from our presumptive nominee.

I don’t want to under play what he accomplished. He needs to be congratulated for an enormous accomplishment. For winning now a plurality of delegates, and he’s on his way to winning a majority of delegates, but he also inherited something very special. That’s very special to a lot of us. This is the party of Lincoln, of Reagan, of Jack Kemp. And we don’t always nominate a Lincoln and a Reagan every four years, but we hope that our nominee aspires to be Lincoln and Reagan-esque, but that person advances the principals of our party and appeals to a wide, vast majority of Americans. And so I think what is necessary to make this work, for this to unify, is to actually take up principles and advance them. And that’s what we want to see.

Saying we’re unified doesn’t in and of itself, unify us, but actually taking the principles that we all believe in, showing that there’s a dedication to those, and running a principles campaign that Republicans can be proud about, and that can actually appeal to a majority of Americans, that to me is what it takes to unify this party.

TAPPER: So you’re saying you can’t support or endorse him right now?

RYAN: Yes, I am basically saying that. Look, I’m — you know, I thought about this two days ago. I thought actually this this was going to go to June 7th at the very least, probably to a convention. And so this is all pretty new for us. But at this point, I think that he needs do more to unify this party to bring all wings of the Republican Party together, and then to go forward and to appeal to all Americans and every walk of life, every background, a majority of independents and discerning (ph) Democrats. And so, you know, I think conservatives want to know, does he share our values and our principles on limited government, the proper role of the executive, adherence to the Constitution. There are a lot of questions that conservatives, I think, are going to want answers to, myself included. And I want to be a part of this unifying process. I want to help unify this party. But we have to unify it, I think, for us to be successful.

For us to have a campaign that Republicans are proud of going forward that is unifiable, and that actually can go and appeal to a vast majority of Americans.

TAPPER: Well, Mr. Speaker you’re casting this in characteristically optimistic and positive terms, and I would expect no less from you, but you’re saying is a fairly dramatic announcement that the speaker of the House cannot, as of now, support his party’s nominee for president. Is there something that he has done or said that’s brought you to this moment?

RYAN: Well, like I said, I hope to support our nominee. I hope to support him candidacy fully. And I want to do that, but right now, and I’ve got to tell you, Jake, just being candid with you, at this point, I am just not there right now. And it’s because I think of part of the last campaign. I don’t want to go back and roll the tape. Look, I was pretty clear, and I was outspoken on a number of occasions, where I think that he did the wrong thing or said the wrong thing. And I’ll do that in the future if need be. I hope it’s not necessary.

But 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 of the wings of the Republican Party, which we all come from different wings of our party, but we all agree on a common platform of conservative principals. We want somebody who takes these conservative principles, applies them to the problems and offers solutions to the country that a vast majority of Americans can vote for, that they want to be enthusiastic about. That is what I think it takes to unify the party. That — I think there’s work that needs to be done in order to unify the party. I think our nominee — our presumptive nominee — needs to do that. I want to be part of helping him do that.

But right now, no. I think that, you know, there’s some work to do the. Let me say it this way. Republicans have been watching each other go after each other for six months. Democrats are doing the same thing, because we’ve had a primary, a bitter primary process. And I think we sometimes forget just how successful we’ve been. We had the biggest House majority since 1928. We have 54 Republican Senate Seats. We have state legislative majorities and governorships that we haven’t seen in years, in decades. And so we have done extremely well. Our party is having — enjoying success, because we have unified around common conservative principles, and then we have one hill to climb, one more mountaintop — that’s the presidency. So please know that we think the stakes are extremely high. They’re the highest they’ve been. The Supreme Court, Congress, the future of America is on the line.

And no Republican should ever think about supporting Hillary Clinton. Let’s make that clear. But for us to be a successful party, to climb that final hill and win the presidency, we will need a standard-bearer that can unify all Republicans, all conservatives, all wings of our party, and then go to the country with an appealing agenda that can be appealing to independents and disaffected Democrats. And we have work to do on this front. And I think our nominee has to lead in that effort.

TAPPER: As you know, Mitt Romney, John McCain, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, all of them Republican presidential nominees or presidents, have said they’re not going to go to the convention in Cleveland.

In fact, I want to get your view. Watch this clip of your former runningmate, Mitt Romney, talking about Donald Trump earlier this year.


FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS. Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities — the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the members of American public for suckers. He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat.


TAPPER: Do you Governor Romney’s views? Trump’s a phony, a bully and a fraud?

RYAN: Look, here’s what I think, Jake. And I think you’re going to see tapes like that running all fall. The question is, can our presumptive nominee turn things around, unify and have a different kind of cadence going forward?

The way I look at this, Jake, is it’s time to go to from tapping anger to channeling that anger into solutions. It’s time to set aside bullying, to set aside belittlement and appeal to higher aspirations, appeal to what is good in us and to lead a country and a party to having a vast majority of Americans enthusiastic about choosing a path. That’s why I just feel so strongly about the chance and the choice and the opportunity that we have in front of us. But for this to work, our presumptive nominee, I believe, needs to unify the party for the party to be unified. And I want to help him do that.

TAPPER: Do you think that’s even possible? Do you think that’s possible?


RYAN: Just so you know, Jake, we’re not there right now. We’re not there right now.

Yes, I think it’s possible. But we’re not there right now. And I think it is possible, and we better get on with it.

But I think we just need to be honest with each other about these things, and look, I think, yes, I think we can beat Hillary Clinton. Are you kidding me? So yes, I think it’s possible. And it needs to be possible because so much is at stake.

TAPPER: So you don’t think the damage has been done?

RYAN: Work needs to be done, and I think our presumptive has a bit of work to be done.

TAPPER: You don’t think that so much damage has been done that it’s almost as if it’s a lost cause, because it seems to me from hearing people like Mitt Romney, hearing Ted Cruz the other day call Donald Trump a pathological liar on the ewe of Donald Trump winning it all. Donald Trump was attacking his father and suggesting that Raphael Cruz might have played a role in the Kennedy assassination. It doesn’t seem like there are going to be — it’s going to be possible to build that many bridges. Do you disagree?

RYAN: I’m familiar with the points you’re making. That is why among other reasons — basically as a conservative I want to see a verification that our conservative principles will be championed, will be run on, will be represented, and will be brought to the public and the country in a way that’s appealing for us to be successful.

So like I said, we’re not there yet.

But yet, I mean, look, this man is going get the nomination because he earned it, he deserved it. He won the vote. And more importantly, I think those of us need to learn a few lessons here. I think there’s a bit of humility that each of us needs, especially leaders in Congress, which is, he tapped into something in this country that was very powerful, and people are sending a message to Washington that we need to learn from and listen to, but at the same time, now that we have a presumptive nominee, he was going to be our standard-bearer, I think it’s very important that there’s a demonstration that our standards will be beared. I mean, that he will advance our appreciation for limited government, for the Constitution, for the proper role of the executive, for the principles that not built on our party, but built this country, and how we’re going to apply those principles to offer solutions and run Republicans can be proud of, and run a campaign that Americans can be proud of.

And yes, looking back on the primary campaign, I think they’re are instances and episodes that question that. That’s why I, at this point, am not ready to jump in. But I hope we can get there, and that’s my goal.

TAPPER: You will be gavelling in the convention as the speaker of the House. If he hasn’t been the Reagan-esque, Lincoln-esqe. Jack Kemp-esque nominee that you need him to be, that you want him to be in order for you to say that you support him, what are you going to do? Can you manage the convention if you haven’t yet decided that you can supported him?

RYAN: Look, I am just a guy giving you my peace of mind. I am a lifelong conservative, who feels passionate about these principals and how they’re necessary to save our country and get us on the right track. We are on the wrong track as a country, and we stayed on this road much further with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, it’s going to be ugly for this country. And so I desperately want to see us unify on principles, and ideas and policies, and on an agenda, and win the hearts and the minds of the vast majority of Americans and speak to everybody, and I am hoping that’s where this goes. But I don’t know that that’s where that’s going to go. As the chair of a convention, which is something as part of my duty as speaker of House, I will be the chair of the convention. I’ll gavel the convention in, and I’m hoping by then that this will be a unified party. But I think a lot of the burden is on the presumptive nominee to do that. And so we’ll see. That’s all that I got for you.

TAPPER: But doesn’t he have to completely revoke in order to become the man that can unite behind the principles and the polices that you support? Doesn’t he completely have to say that he doesn’t support the deportation of 12 million undocumented immigrants because you disagree with that? That he doesn’t support…

RYAN: No, no, I’m not saying that at all.

TAPPER: He doesn’t support banning all Muslims from entering the United States, because you don’t support that?

RYAN: Look, who am I?

TAPPER: You’re the speaker of the house.

RYAN: Look, I’m not saying he’s got to support my policies.

TAPPER: You’re the speaker of the House.

RYAN: He won fair and square on his policies. And yes, he comes from a different wing of the party than the one I do.

But I’ve got to tell you one thing, Jake, if we don’t unify all wings of the party, we’re not going win the election.

So the question is, what can you do to unify all wings of the party to go forward?

And yes, we’re going to have policy disagreements. And on the Muslim ban I spoke out very forcefully on that, and if things like that continue and I feel the need out of conscious to speak out, I’ll do that. I hope it doesn’t come to that.

But the point I’m trying to make here, Jake, is you know, you have to unify all wings of the Republican Party in a conservative movement, and then take it to the country so that America, the vast majority of Americans, non-Republicans also, have something that they’re proud to support and that we’re proud to be a part of. And we’ve got a ways to go from here to there. And that’s the point I’m trying to make.

So of course you’re going to have policy disagreements. You always have policy disagreements. Heck, Mitt Romney and I had policy disagreements. So that’s just natural, and it’s too much to ask someone to change their policy views that they were duly elected on, on some policy dispute. But are we putting our policies based upon the principles that all conservative and all Republicans share? You know, limited government, the Constitution, the right role for the executive?


TAPPER: Well, that’s what I meant. I wasn’t just citing those areas…

RYAN: Those are the things that we all believe in, and we want to make sure our standard-bearer bears those standards, that our standard-bearer champions those, if you want to see a unified party, and that’s the point I’m trying to make, which is, I think for this to be successful, the party needs to be unified, and I think he’s got some work to do, and I’m happy to help him do that.

TAPPER: I cited those two things, not because I didn’t think that you had rebuked him on the Muslim ban, the temporary ban, he proposed, but because they seem to go against, in your the view, the principles of the Republican Party in terms of religious liberty, in terms of free trade, in terms of deporting 12 million undocumented workers, but that’s what I meant. Like, those are principles. It’s not just policy agreements. Those are principal disagreements you have with them.

RYAN: We’ve got work to do.

TAPPER: David Broke wrote this in the New York Times of a Trump nomination. Quote, “This is a Joe McCarthy moment. People will be judged by where they stood at this time. Those who walk with Trump will be tainted forever after for the degradation of standards and the general election slaughter,” unquote. Do you see it that way?

RYAN: I am not looking at it like that. I don’t think it’s right to think about 2017 and beyond. I’m focused on 2016, because I want 2016 in Congress to be successful, and where we actually tackle the country’s big challenges and get our country back on track.

I am focused on the here and now, and not the tomorrow. And just quite frankly, as a conservative, as a lifelong conservative, who’s shared these values all of my life, I want to see our party unify, and I’d love to see our standard-bearer celebrate the principles of our party, apply them to the problems. appeal to all Americans and run a principled, solutions-based campaign that we can all be proud of. And I do believe there’s work that needs to be done for that to happen. That’s the point I’m trying to make. And I’m not worried what’s after this election. This election right now is the one we need to focus on.

TAPPER: And just to be clear, sir — and I hate to be that guy — I know you hate it when we ask that question, you’re still ruling out…

RYAN: You asked it, like, three times.

TAPPER: No, this one. Just to be clear, you’re still ruling out in any way you accepting any nomination of your party?

RYAN: Oh, yes, yes.

TAPPER: Okay. Just wanted to make sure of that. And then lastly, sir, just I guess the question is, what are the odds that he is going to be able to become the candidate you want him to be. You have a lot of work to be done. But quite frankly, I’ve been covering him. I’ve covered you. Is this chasm bridgeable?

RYAN: I think it’s possible. But this isn’t — look, don’t say this is about me. This is about we, the Republican Party, we the conservatives, who want a standard-bearer who’s going to represent all of the full spectrum of conservatism and unify all factions of the party, but not just that Republicans can be proud of, that Americans can be part of, that can compete for the vast majority of Americans so that you can the election.

Like I said, we’ve been very successful as Republicans. One more big job ahead of us. And no less than the Supreme Court, Congress, and the future of America is at stake, and so for this to be successful, the party needs to be unified, and then we have to go out and win converts, and we have to do it in a way that appeals, that’s enthusiastic. I believe that that can be done, but right now that’s not where we are, and that’s where we need to get to.

TAPPER: How worried are you of losing the Senate and possibly even the House?

RYAN: Say it again?

TAPPER: How worried are you of about Trump dragging down Republicans running for election in the Senate and the House?

RYAN: I just don’t know that — one thing I think you can predict of this year, it is going to be unpredictable. So I just don’t think you can draw parallels or make projections at this point. So I just think you always run like everything is on the line.

My focus this fall is, has been and will be the House majority. That is primarily my responsibility and what I’m focused on. But I also really love this country and I want to see us win this election so that we can fix this country’s problems.

TAPPER: And lastly, sir. Mr. Trump said back in March that if you –he was talking about you don’t get along with him — you’ll — quote — “have to pay a big price.” Are you worried at all?

RYAN: No, I’m not worried about that.

TAPPER: All right, House Speaker Paul Ryan. Thank you so much for your time, sir. It’s always a pleasure to see you.

RYAN: You bet, Jake. Have a good one. Take care.

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Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com