In the wake of the release of an 11-year old recording showing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump bragging about how his wealth and fame allow him to commit sexual assault with impunity, a slew of Republican officeholders have moved to distance themselves from the former reality TV star.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has added himself to that list, telling a conference call of GOP officials Monday morning that he would no longer be defending his party’s controversial nominee, nor would he be attending events with the one-time Pizza Hut pitchman. Instead, Ryan will focus on down-ballot races, working to ensure Republicans maintain their control of both houses of Congress.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaker Ryan to GOP: Won't defend Trump now or in future, to focus on keeping House majority.— Steve Peoples (@sppeoples) October 10, 2016
BREAKING– @SpeakerRyan tells house republicans he won't defend trump and will focus the next 29 days on keeping the house majority.— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) October 10, 2016
WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaker Ryan tells House GOP he will focus on 'making sure that Hillary Clinton does not get a blank check' .— Stephen Ohlemacher (@stephenatap) October 10, 2016
Even so, Ryan did not formally rescinded his endorsement of Trump—he’s just no longer actively working to help Trump win the Oval Office. Ryan also insisted he is not conceding that the hope of putting a Republican in the White House in next year is lost.
Trump responded to the news by criticizing the top-ranked Republican from fighting with his party’s nominee.
Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2016
For her part, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton pushed back against the efforts of mainstream Republicans like Ryan to untie themselves from their nominee.
Ryan is still endorsing Trump. https://t.co/L30EZvUbm0— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 10, 2016
The list of Republicans who have gone one step farther than Ryan and withdrawn their endorsement of Trump in recent days include Arizona Sen. John McCain, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Alabama Rep. Martha Roby, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
Update 1:08pm CT, Oct. 10: Added Trump tweet.