House Speaker Paul D. Ryan's initial reluctance to endorse Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump may be coming back to haunt him. Trump is now flipping the script and withholding his endorsement for Ryan ahead of the Wisconsin Republican's August 9 primary.
“I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country,” Trump said in an interview Tuesday with The Washington Post. “We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.”
Trump echoed Ryan's words from a May 6 CNN interview , when the speaker, talking about supporting the real estate mogul, said "We’re not there yet." Ryan later endorsed the GOP nominee. [ Ryan Has No Plans to Revoke Trump Endorsement ]
In Tuesday's interview, Trump said Ryan sought his endorsement but the Ryan campaign is refuting that claim.
"Neither Speaker Ryan nor anyone on his team has ever asked for Donald Trump's endorsement," Ryan spokesman Zack Roday said in a statement. "And we are confident in a victory next week regardless."
Trump complimented Ryan's primary opponent, Paul Nehlen, for running “a very good campaign.” That follows a tweet Trump sent thanking Nehlen for his "kind words." Nehlen had defended Trump's comments about Khizr and Ghazala Khan, an American Muslim couple whose son Capt. Humayun Khan was killed while serving in Iraq. Khizr Khan criticized Trump at the Democratic National Convention last week for his calls to ban Muslims from traveling to the U.S.
Trump also told the Post that he is not endorsing Arizona Sen. John McCain in his Republican primary on Aug. 30.
“I’ve never been there with John McCain because I’ve always felt that he should have done a much better job for the vets,” Trump continued. “He has not done a good job for the vets and I’ve always felt that he should have done a much better job for the vets. So I’ve always had a difficult time with John for that reason, because our vets are not being treated properly. They’re not being treated fairly.”
Trump went on to criticize Republicans who have distanced themselves from him, calling out New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte specifically.
“New Hampshire is one of my favorite places,” Trump said. “You have a Kelly Ayotte who doesn’t want to talk about Trump, but I’m beating her in the polls by a lot. You tell me. Are these people that should be representing us, OK? You tell me.”
Ayotte tweeted in response: "I call it like I see it and I'm always going to stand up for our military families and what's best for the people of New Hampshire."