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Ryan: Republicans should follow ‘conscience’ on Trump

Matthew Daly
Associated Press

Washington — House Speaker Paul Ryan says Republican lawmakers should follow their conscience in deciding whether or not to support Donald Trump, the GOP’s presumptive nominee for president.

The Wisconsin Republican told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “the last thing I would do is tell anybody to do something that’s contrary to their conscience. Of course I wouldn’t do that.”

Ryan, who has given a tepid endorsement to Trump, said he understands he is in a “very strange situation” to be supporting the party’s presumptive nominee while not urging his fellow lawmakers to follow suit. But he said Trump is “a very unique nominee.”

Trump has, meanwhile, defied party leaders' appeals to act more presidential and challenged conservative principles.

Ryan is the highest elected Republican official and the official chairman of the Republican convention next month. He stunned the political world in May when he held back his endorsement of Trump before grudgingly offering his support earlier this month. Since then, Ryan has been critical of Trump, calling the candidate’s complaints about the impartiality of a judge of Mexican heritage a “textbook definition of a racist comment” and reiterating his opposition to Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban all foreign Muslims from entering the United States.

As speaker of the House, Ryan said he feels a responsibility not to lead “some chasm in the middle of our party” that would hurt GOP chances to win the White House. His reluctance to embrace the party’s nominee wholeheartedly is remarkable for a Republican who was the GOP’s vice presidential candidate in 2012.

Ryan was interviewed Thursday for the Sunday talk show. An excerpt was released Friday.

He told reporters at a news conference Thursday that he will continue to speak out in defense of conservative principles, despite a warning from Trump that Republican congressional leaders should “be quiet.”

He and other congressional leaders “represent a separate but equal branch of government,” Ryan said as he vowed to “robustly defend the separation of powers.”

Ryan’s comments came as Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., a 30-year House veteran and committee chairman, said he will not endorse Trump for president. Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan also said he will not vote for the billionaire presidential candidate. And Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a former GOP candidate for president, said he’s still not ready to endorse Trump.

Ryan said he has no plans to rescind his endorsement of Trump.

“I don’t have a plan to do that,” he said Thursday, calling differences among party leaders “just the way things work.”

Campaign snapshots

■His campaign riled by infighting and Republican revolt, Donald Trump is working to address a battleground state staffing shortage that highlights his reliance on a skeptical GOP establishment.

The New York billionaire has slowly begun to add paid staff in a handful of swing states — Wisconsin and Iowa, among them — even as campaign officials concede the presumptive presidential nominee has little desire or capacity to construct the kind of massive national operation that has come to define modern-day White House campaigns.

■The presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both trying to prevent the release of videos that are critical to legal cases involving the candidates.

Trump’s lawyers are intensifying efforts to stop the release of video of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee testifying under oath in a fraud lawsuit about the now-defunct Trump University.

Lawyers for a top Clinton aide used similar arguments to persuade another judge to keep video depositions sealed in a lawsuit about the likely Democratic nominee’s use of a private email server while she was America’s top diplomat.

■President Vladimir Putin reiterated his praise for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s pledge to restore cooperation between Russia and the U.S., while insisting that he isn’t expressing a preference for who wins the election.