Politics

Ryan Willing to Step Down as Convention Chair if Trump Asks

Trump declines to take a position on speaker's role in Cleveland — for now

Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin denied reports that his refusal to back Donald Trump was because of his own presidential ambitions for 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan is willing to step down as chairman of the Republican National Convention if that is what Donald Trump wants, he told his local newspaper Monday.  

"He's the nominee. I'll do whatever he wants with respect to the convention," Ryan said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel .  

[Related: 5 Things to Expect When Ryan Meets Trump] Ryan said last week that he was "not ready" to support Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. He told the Journal Sentinel that he was speaking his mind, and not making any political moves designed to set himself up for a presidential run in 2020, as some critics, like former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin, have surmised.  

“I never said never,” Ryan said of endorsing Trump. “I just said, [not] at this point. I wish I had more time to get to know him before this happened. We just didn't.”  

Ryan will sit down with Trump for the first time on Thursday.  

Trump said on NBC's “Meet the Press” that he was blindsided by Ryan's decision to withhold his support, but he declined to say whether Ryan should remain chairman of the Republican convention in Cleveland if he didn't endorse him by July.  

“I don't want to mention [that] now,” he said. “I'll see after. I will give you a very solid answer if that happens.”  

On Monday, Trump stressed that he was looking forward to the meeting. “I hope it's going to be positive, and if it's not going to be positive, I can live with that also,” Trump told Fox Business Network.  

[Related: Trump Isn't Stressed About Party Unity] Ryan has never seemed that excited about his role as chair of the convention. He has said on numerous occasions that he didn't know until after he was elected speaker that the job automatically gave him that role. As of two months ago, Ryan said he had not even read up on all the convention rules and procedures.  

Contact McPherson at lindseymcpherson@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter @lindsemcpherson. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.