Politics

Priebus: Trump Doesn’t Want Ryan to Step Down

White House stands by speaker after generating speculation in wake of health care meltdown

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus insisted President Donald Trump does not want House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to step down during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

The president raised many eyebrows Saturday morning when he issued a vague tweet saying, “Watch @JudgeJeanine on @FoxNews tonight at 9:00 P.M.” with no further elaboration. When Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro began her opening statement that same evening, she ripped into Ryan, saying that he “needs to step down as speaker of the House” because he “failed to deliver the votes on his health care bill.” Ryan pulled the American Health Care Act from consideration Friday after failing to garner enough Republican support.

“[Trump] enjoys his relationship with Paul Ryan, thinks that Paul Ryan is a great Speaker of the House. None of that has changed.”

When “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace asked Priebus if Trump is demanding that Ryan “step down,” Priebus flatly denied it.

“No, he doesn’t. And he talked to Paul Ryan yesterday for about an hour. He believes what he said in the Oval Office on Friday,” Priebus said, pointing to Trump’s repeated praise for Ryan’s efforts to muscle through the GOP health care bill.

“[Trump] doesn’t blame Paul Ryan. In fact, he thought Paul Ryan worked really hard,” Priebus added. “He enjoys his relationship with Paul Ryan, thinks that Paul Ryan is a great Speaker of the House. None of that has changed.”

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But when Wallace pressed Priebus about Trump’s cryptic plug for Pirro’s show the same day she blasted Ryan, Priebus said it was “more coincidental” than anything else.

“There was no pre-planning here,” Priebus said, adding that Trump tweeted the recommendation “because he loves Judge Jeanine and he wanted to do Judge Jeanine a favor.”

“I think this is more of a personal relationship, the president helping out a friend,” Priebus said.

In her opening statement, Pirro said that, “Paul Ryan needs to step down as speaker of the House” because “he failed to deliver the votes on his health care bill, the one trumpeted to repeal and replace Obamacare, the one he had seven years to work on, the one he hid under lock and key in the basement of Congress, the one that had to be pulled to prevent the embarrassment of not having enough votes to pass.”

“How could you possibly misjudge this?” Pirro directed at Ryan. “I certainly have not spoken to the president about any of this, but I can only imagine that he and his aides took on health care because they believed you had his back, and you didn’t! You didn’t even test the waters. You had no consensus.”

Although Priebus dismissed the idea that Trump was trying to force Ryan out, he did note the president was not pleased with the opposition the AHCA received from the more conservative members of Republican Party, including the House Freedom Caucus members. Wallace pointed to a tweet Trump issued Sunday in which he said, “Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!”

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“Well, I think the president is 100-percent correct and he hits the bull’s-eye in that tweet like he often does,” Priebus responded. “We can’t be chasing the perfect all the time. I mean, sometimes you have to take the good and put it in your pocket and take the win.”

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Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the Freedom Caucus chairman, addressed rumors that House Republicans were floating his name as a suitable replacement for Ryan as House speaker on ABC News’ “This Week.”

“This is not me, and I can tell you there is no conversations [sic] going on right now with regards to replacing the speaker,” Meadows told host George Stephanopoulos, adding that “no one worked harder than the speaker and the president” on concocting health care reform.

“We’re committed to work with the president, the speaker — the current speaker — and make sure that what we do is get some consensus,” Meadows added.

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