Calls for legislation protecting special counsel Robert Mueller were rejected Sunday by outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd of NBC that such a measure is unneeded.
There’s been some vocal support recently for a bill, pending in the Senate, that would take away President Donald Trump’s ability to fire Mueller, who is leading a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible participation by the Trump campaign.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said last week he would bring the bill up in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs. But Ryan told Todd he has had numerous conversations with the White House about Mueller.
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“I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said. “I don’t think he’s gonna fire Mueller. I think it would be a huge mistake.”
Ryan, who stunned colleagues last week by announcing he would not run for re-election in November, declined to wade into the debate over fired FBI Director James Comey and his forthcoming book.
Ryan said he does not know Comey that well.
“I’m not trying to be evasive, but what I don’t want to do is join some sort of food fight, some bookselling food fight,” he said. “I don’t see a value in that.”
Ryan pushed back against comments by Charlie Sykes, a conservative radio host in his home state of Wisconsin, that the current era of American politics represents a “triumph of Trumpism over Ryanism” and that it must be a “difficult pill” for the speaker.
“No, I just don’t see it like that,” Ryan said. “One of the first things I fought for when I first got here was tax reform. It hadn’t been done since 1986, the year I got my driver’s license. That is now done.”
“One of the first things I fought for when I first got here was tax reform. It hadn’t been done since 1986, the year I got my driver’s license. That is now done.”
Ryan said the country also is on the path toward rebuilding the military, another major goal of his.
Ryan said his decision to leave is based on his desire to be home with his teenage children before they leave the house and the fact that he has accomplished much of what he set out to do — not because of Trump or concerns about the 2018 election.
“I’ve actually gotten a lot done, and I’ve gotten much of what I came here to do done,” he said. “Not everything, but much of what I’ve wanted to do.”
The one major item on Ryan’s to-do list that will remain unchecked is reforming America’s giant and rapidly growing old-age programs for retirement and health. He said he is disappointed that entitlement reform and repeal of Obamacare did not become law. But he said he is proud both measures passed the House of Representatives.
“One person’s not going to solve all of those things,” he said. “I feel like I’ve done a lot to advance that debate. And, again, I’m not going away from the debate.”
Those entitlement programs — and not the tax cuts passed in December — are the main drivers of debt, Ryan said. He said the trillion-dollar deficits that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected last week would have happened with or without the cuts.
“The baby boomers’ retiring are what are going to do that,” he said. “These deficits, trillion-dollar projections, have been out there for a long, long time. Why? Because of mandatory spending we call entitlements.”
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Ever the optimist, Ryan said Congress eventually will solve America’s entitlement crisis: “I’m convinced it’s going to happen. Why? Because it’s got to happen.”
Ryan did offer a warning that some conservatives have begun to embrace identity politics, once a province of the Left. Conservatives should avoid that temptation, he said.
Ryan endorsed Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to succeed him as speaker. But he disputed the notion, advanced by some, that he should step down as speaker immediately in order to remove uncertainty about his successor during the midterm elections.
“We’ve all discussed this. And we think the smart thing to do is to stay an intact leadership team,” he said. “There’s so much more I can do to keep continuity. We have a great leadership team. There’s so much more we can do to help keep this majority.”
Todd noted the reason Ryan is speaker in the first place is because McCarthy could not win the support of the majority of the House. He asked Ryan what has changed since then.
“What’s changed is we’ve gotten a lot done,” he said.
(photo credit, homepage and article images: Meet the Press / NBC)