On a never-before-released private October conference call with House Republican members, House Speaker Paul Ryan told his members in the U.S. House of Representatives he was abandoning then-GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump forever and would never defend him ever again.
In the Oct. 10, 2016 call, from right after the Access Hollywood tape of Trump was leaked in the weeks leading up to the election, Ryan does not specify that he will never defend Trump on just the Access Hollywood tape—he says clearly he is done with Trump altogether.
“I am not going to defend Donald Trump—not now, not in the future,” Ryan says in the audio, obtained by Breitbart News and published here for the first time ever.
Now, Ryan—still the Speaker—has pushed now President Donald Trump to believe his healthcare legislation the American Health Care Act would repeal and replace Obamacare when it does not repeal Obamacare. Ryan has also, according to Trump ally Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), misled President Trump into believing that Ryan’s bill can pass Congress. Paul and others believe the bill is dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate since a number of GOP senators have come out against it, and there are serious questions about whether it can pass the House. This is the first major initiative that Trump has worked on with Ryan—and the fact it is going so poorly calls into question whether Speaker Ryan, the GOP’s failed 2012 vice presidential nominee who barely supported Trump at all in 2016, really understands how Trump won and how to win in general.
The October conference call apparently was intended only for House Republican members. It’s unclear which or how many House Republicans took part in the call, whether the participants knew it was being recorded, who made the recording, or whether a recording exists of the entire call. The remarks on the portion provided to Breitbart News certainly sound like they were coming from Speaker Ryan, who seemed to be abandoning his party’s presidential nominee altogether just weeks before the election. He says not only will he not defend the Access Hollywood comments, but he will not campaign with Trump at all between this call on Oct. 10, 2016, and the general election for the presidency on Nov. 8—and that Ryan would not defend Trump on anything generally.
Ryan followed through on his promise to not campaign with Trump, abandoning the now president in the final crucial weeks leading up to the all-important general election. But Trump won anyway, in a landslide in the electoral college crushing Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. This audio file means that Trump won all 306 of his electoral votes on his own, without Ryan, including the 10 he won in Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin. As soon as Trump won without Ryan’s help, Ryan aligned himself with then President-elect Trump and now President Trump—acting like he never abandoned him on the campaign trail and never disinvited the president from a rally in his district.
Ryan’s comments on this Oct. 10 call came after a female voice—it’s unclear if the woman was a House member or not—opened up the call. He called Trump’s Access Hollywood comments indefensible and said they do not fit with the Republican Party’s “principles and values.” Ryan also told House members on the call that he would not be campaigning with Trump, and that each member should make their own decision with regards to Trump over the next several weeks at that point: Abandon the GOP nominee for president like Ryan was doing or stand with him? A number of members joined Ryan in abandoning Trump. Both of those two sections of the call have been previously reported in media, although those media reports lacked audio of Ryan to back them up. But the more important line is the line where Ryan says—without specifying this was about the Access Hollywood leak—that he will never defend Donald Trump again.
“His comments are not anywhere in keeping with our party’s principles and values,” Ryan said. “There are basically two things that I want to make really clear, as for myself as your Speaker. I am not going to defend Donald Trump—not now, not in the future. As you probably heard, I disinvited him from my first congressional district GOP event this weekend—a thing I do every year. And I’m not going to be campaigning with him over the next 30 days.”
“Look, you guys know I have real concerns with our nominee,” Ryan continued. “I hope you appreciate that I’m doing what I think is best for you, the members, not what’s best for me. So, I want to do what’s best for our members, and I think this is the right thing to do. I’m going to focus my time on campaigning for House Republicans. I talked to a bunch of you over the last 72 hours and here is basically my takeaway. To everyone on this call, this is going to be a turbulent month. Many of you on this call are facing tough reelections. Some of you are not. But with respect to Donald Trump, I would encourage you to do what you think is best and do what you feel you need to do. Personally, you need to decide what’s best for you. And you all know what’s best for you where you are.”
Later in the audio, Ryan does clarify that the “last thing” he wanted to do was help Clinton ascend to the presidency.
“But the last thing I want to do is to help Hillary Clinton get the presidency, and get Congress,” Ryan said. “Look, she’s a failed progressive. She’s running an abysmal campaign. I mean, it’s just—it’s amazing how easily she could be beaten. She will take this country in the wrong direction. And the last thing we need is four more years of Obama policies or two years of a Clinton presidency with a Democrat Congress. Could you imagine what that would look like? So the last thing we want to be doing is giving Hillary Clinton a blank check in Congress.”
“That’s why I’m going to spend the rest of this month fighting for Congress, fighting for our majorities,” Ryan continued. “I’m going to spend the next 28 days working hard with all of our members to get re-elected because we need a check on Hillary Clinton if Donald Trump and Mike Pence don’t win the presidency. Greg Walden will get more into what that looks like and what polling looks like, but I want to basically close with this: His comments are indefensible, they’re not in keeping with our principles, so I’m not going to try to defend him. I’m going to focus on Congress, I’m going to focus on upholding our values. We have a great, great policy agenda—A Better Way—that we need to take to voters and show what our party actually stands for and what it’s stood for for generations.”
LISTEN TO AUDIO OF PAUL RYAN’S OCT. 10, 2016, CONFERENCE CALL WITH HOUSE GOP:
In response to this audio surfacing, Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck told Breitbart News: “The world is well aware of this history.”
“And obviously a lot has happened since then. As everyone knows,” Buck added in a follow-up email.
In a third follow-up email, Buck clarified about the comments from Ryan that “of course they were” specifically about the Access Hollywood tapes.
“This was in response to that, but as everyone knows, they came together toward the end of the campaign and the speaker vocally supported him and even campaigned with Pence,” Buck said.
But Ryan never campaigned with Trump.
It’s worth noting that the person Ryan leaned on for political advice in abandoning Trump during this conference call was now House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR). Walden, at the time, was chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). This audio file obtained by Breitbart News does not include Walden’s comments, so it’s unclear exactly what he said. But Walden is now one of Ryan’s top lieutenants in the House of Representatives, leading the promotion of this healthcare legislation—and one of the two committee chairmen who kept his committee in session overnight to speed up the mark-up of the legislation last week.
Ryan’s decision to abandon Trump on the campaign trail has become a focal point in healthcare negotiations. While meeting with conservative leaders last week at the White House, this exact topic came up—as Tea Party Patriots’ Jenny Beth Martin and Trump shared an exchange that was particularly awkward for White House chief of staff and Ryan ally Reince Priebus.
“Inside the Oval Office last week, there was a telling exchange between conservative activist Jenny Beth Martin and the president,” Jonathan Swan of Axios reported on Sunday night, adding:
During Trump’s Wednesday meeting with conservative leaders over the healthcare plan, Tea Party Patriots leader Martin subtly reminded Trump that her super-PAC stood by him ‘through thick and thin’ during the campaign, unlike a certain politician from Wisconsin. According to two sources in the room, Martin didn’t mention Paul Ryan’s name. But everyone knew who she was talking about. She reminded Trump that in October — when the crude ‘Access Hollywood’ tape leaked and Ryan disinvited Trump from a Wisconsin event — Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund volunteers were working the phones on Trump’s behalf. Trump smiled and glanced over at his chief of staff Reince Priebus. Trump said that, yes, he had been disinvited. And he thanked Martin for standing by him.
Ryan has been unwilling to negotiate on the specifics of his bill, which has earned multiple negative monikers like “Obamacare 2.0,” “Obamacare Lite,” “RyanCare,” and “RINO-CARE” from detractors. But President Trump and his true allies, despite what Ryan’s allies inside the White House say publicly, have been much more willing to negotiate, according to House and Senate conservatives who have had direct conversations with the president.
“We have gotten a signal from the White House that the bill might be completely pulled and a more transparent and inclusive process could start as early as next week,” one senior Republican Senate aide told Breitbart News on Friday. “House leadership misled the White House on how popular this bill would be with conservatives.”
“That would be excellent news, and the best way to ensure we actually deliver on what we told the voters we would do,” another senior congressional aide told Breitbart News when asked about the possibility Ryan’s bill might be pulled altogether and a new renegotiated bill introduced afterwards. “The bill as is cannot pass and there is a growing chorus of Republican members in both houses growing impatient with the current unwillingness to make any changes to the current House bill.”
“They’ll start to fold soon if the conservative groups hold firm,” one senior House GOP aide in an office whose member is against the bill, will not vote for it in its current form or without significant changes under any circumstances and is not in the House Freedom Caucus, told Breitbart News.
House GOP leadership offices—particularly Ryan’s and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s team—have not responded to requests for comment on the possibility the bill may be pulled altogether. But White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who is working internally as hard as he can to help Ryan on this front regardless of the impact on Trump along with a handful of other White House aides who came from the Republican National Committee and are not Trump loyalists, told Breitbart News that the idea the bill may be pulled is “false.”
But in conversations Breitbart News has had with no fewer than 15 other White House aides, including many on the press team, it is clear that the President and the senior Trump administration team are not happy with this bill’s lack of conservative support. The President and his team were assured by Ryan that conservatives would, in fact, be on board with it in the beginning, something that has turned out to not be accurate. Interestingly, much more so than Ryan and his House GOP leadership team, the White House is much more open to significant negotiation on the details in a healthcare bill—including the structure, vehicle, timeline and more. Several senior White House aides confirmed to Breitbart News that while the administration is publicly touting the bill as the party line, the President is much more willing to wheel and deal on this front than Ryan loyalists on his team would have anyone believe.
“The President gave Ryan a chance,” one source close to the President said. “If he doesn’t get his act together soon, the President will have no choice but to step in and fix this on his own. He’s the best negotiator on the planet, and if this were his bill not Ryan’s it would not be this much of a mess.”
In fact, the president himself on Monday said he is working on negotiating on this healthcare bill.
“We’re negotiating with everybody,” Trump said. “It’s a big fat beautiful negotiation and hopefully we’ll come up with something that’s going to be really terrific.”
What’s more, the bill has virtually zero chance of ever passing the Senate should it get there. Sens. Paul, Mike Lee (R-UT), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), James Lankford (R-OK), Dean Heller (R-NV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Ben Sasse (R-NE)—among other GOP senators—have all raised concerns about it. Paul, Lee and Cotton have been particularly vocal, while Graham has raised concerns with the process.
Cotton, particularly, warned his old House colleagues to not vote for Ryan’s bill. “The bill probably can be fixed, but it’s going to take a lot of carpentry on that framework,” Cotton said, adding the key warning: “Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote,”
“I’m not going to give into demands by members of Congress or the Senate if I don’t believe it’s in the interest of the American people and just walk away from the frigging table,” Graham said last week, according to Politico.
Sasse, meanwhile, has privately raised concerns about the process and viability of the bill, according to a Senate GOP aide while a source close to Sasse has confirmed to Breitbart News he raised those concerns. Politico has reported on Heller’s serious concerns with Ryan’s bill, and Collins said she agrees with Paul—for different reasons—that the bill is dead on arrival in the Senate. Lankford, in a Monday morning radio interview, confirmed he also has serious concerns with the House bill and that he is introducing his own Obamacare replacement legislation in the Senate on Tuesday.
Cruz’s office confirmed to Breitbart News he has had several meetings with White House officials, House members and Senate leadership officials making the case for an improved House bill. Cruz has also argued that Republicans can get around the Senate’s parliamentarian on budget reconciliation because he says the Vice President—Mike Pence—“has the statutory and constitutional authority (as does the Senate majority) to rule to the contrary” of what the parliamentarian says.
Given the fact there are only 52 Republicans in the U.S. Senate, only three Republicans are needed to stop a piece of legislation that has no support from any Democrats. This bill is expected to get no support from Democrats, so the nine Republicans that Breitbart News can confirm have serious issues with the House bill—while not all necessarily 100 percent against it—are more than enough to stop this bill dead in its tracks if it ever reaches them.
That brings up the next question, which is whether Ryan’s legislation has enough support to pass the U.S. House of Representatives. At this time, since the House Freedom Caucus is united against it—more than 40 members comprise the House Freedom Caucus—it appears the answer is no. Ryan can only afford to lose around 20 Republican votes, depending on absences and vacancies, since he is aiming to pass the bill with zero support from any Democrats.
And while Ryan is attempting to browbeat 20 or so of the House Freedom Caucus members into submission on this legislation using his affiliated outside groups to run ads against them in their districts—while not spending anything on targeting Democrats—House GOP sources in non-Freedom Caucus offices tell Breitbart News that there are as many as perhaps 70 House Republicans against this bill at this time, and that number is not getting any smaller as time goes by. So if Ryan is able to muscle it through the House in the next few weeks—sources close to the process expect a battle to come on the rule vote, which may happen next week or the week after—it will be on life support headed to a Senate that does not support it since conservatives are not warming up to it by any stretch.
Now, on top of all of this, this new audio file raises questions as to how loyal Ryan is to Trump politically—and is asking the new president to use precious political capital to push through legislation that seems arithmetically destined for congressional failure. That could doom or at least dampen other key elements of the Trump agenda, like tax reform, immigration reform, national security efforts, budgetary reforms, building up of the U.S. military, trade renegotiation and more.
As such, as Breitbart News has previously reported, there are now rumblings among House Republicans that they may want a replacement not just of Obamacare but a replacement of Paul Ryan as Speaker. A new Speaker, some argue, would make life much easier for President Trump as he moves forward with his agenda. So the argument goes, as some House GOP members have told Breitbart News, is that if healthcare is this rocky then tax reform, immigration, trade policy and other key Trump agenda items will be worse.