House Speaker Paul Ryan on Monday told congressional Republicans he will not campaign with Donald Trump or defend the GOP presidential nominee through the election — and even suggested he’s preparing for a Hillary Clinton presidency — according to sources on a conference call for GOP House leaders and rank-and-file members.
The stunning statements indicate Trump’s debate performance Sunday has not eased concerns among Republican congressional leaders about the impact on House races following the release Friday of a 2005 audiotape in which Trump is heard bragging about being able to grope women because he is a celebrity. Trump has apologized for the remarks.
The conference call Monday was essentially a discussion about election strategy until the Nov. 8 vote. All 435 House members are up for reelection in November, including 246 Republicans.
Ryan and other House Republican leaders told those on the call to “do what’s best for you in your district,” according to sources.
The Wisconsin lawmaker on Monday also suggested that the presidential election may be a lost cause for Republicans. He said the party’s focus should be to ensure that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “does not get a blank check with a Democrat-controlled Congress,” sources said.
Ryan on Saturday already denounced Trump’s lewd comments on the tape about women — calling them “disgusting” — and uninvited the nominee to a weekend rally in Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin.
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However, Ryan has not withdrawn his endorsement of Trump as some other Republican lawmakers have said they no longer support Trump or that he should quit the race.