Politics

Paul Ryan Avoids Criticizing Trump as Helsinki Fallout Continues

Speaker attempts to send message about Russia to world without attacking president

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., faced questions about President Donald Trump's Helsinki summit at the GOP leadership press conference on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Tuesday attempted to send a clear message about Russia following President Donald Trump’s Monday summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but it was missing one thing — a direct rebuke of the president’s statements and actions.

“Let me be really clear,” Ryan said as a reporter asked the first of several consecutive questions about Russia during a GOP leadership press conference Tuesday. “Let me try and be as clear as I can to the world and the country: We stand by our NATO allies and all those countries who are facing Russia aggression.”

Ryan reminded reporters that he’s communicated his views on Putin repeatedly during his weekly press conferences and then for emphasis did so again.

“Vladimir Putin does not share our interests; Vladimir Putin does not share our values,” the Wisconsin Republican said.

Russia “did interfere in our elections; it’s really clear,” Ryan added. “There should be no doubt about that. It’s also clear that it did not have a material effect on our elections.”

Ryan Doubles Down on Anti-Putin Message After Helsinki

The speaker added that the Kremlin is trying to interfere in other countries’ elections as well and in an effort to “undermine democracy itself ... so they can look good by comparison.”

Despite all that, Ryan said it is “perfectly reasonable” for Trump to want to have good relations Russia, and when asked if the president should correct or recall his comments, Ryan simply referred to the statement he released Monday. That statement also did not directly confront Trump.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wants the House on record to support Ryan’s Monday statement. In a Dear Colleague letter sent Tuesday, Pelosi informed colleagues that Foreign Affairs ranking member Eliot L. Engel of New York “will introduce a resolution endorsing Speaker Ryan’s statement rebuking the President’s statements in Helsinki and reaffirming the accuracy of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s findings that Russia interfered in our 2016 elections,” and seek to pass it by unanimous consent, essentially daring Republicans to block it.  

Ryan also said he does not agree with former CIA Director John Brennan that Trump’s actions during the Helsinki summit were treasonous.

When asked what Congress can do to respond, Ryan said Congress has already passed sanctions against Russia but he’s open to more.

“If the Foreign Affairs Committee or the Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee think that there are other sanctions that we have not yet placed upon Russia I am more than happy to consider those,” he said.

 

The House Intelligence Committee earlier this year issued a report that concluded — contrary to intelligence community findings — that Russia meddling in the election was to generally sow discord, not help Trump. But Putin on Monday acknowledged he wanted Trump to win.

Ryan deferred to the Intel plan when asked to comment on the discrepancy but noted the committee members were concerned about “the trade craft.”

“We also believe there some mistakes by the IC,” he said.

Watch: Next to Putin, Trump Defies U.S. Intel on Russian Election Interference

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