Three days after the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape on which Donald Trump was heard bragging about sexual assault, then-House Speaker Paul Ryan told his fellow Republicans they could drop their support for the presidential candidate, a new book reveals.
According to Axios’ Mike Allen, A Hill to Die On by Politico’s Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer offers new insights into a previously reported “rare conference call with all House Republicans” following the tape’s release. On that call, Ryan reportedly gave lawmakers the option to discard their loyalties to Trump and jump ship.
Sherman and Palmer report that the congressman was clear in his message that they “should feel free to abandon Trump,” according to Axios, citing an advance copy of the book.
“I am not going to defend Donald Trump,” he said. “Not now, not in the future.”
NBC News reported on the October 2016 call the day it occurred. However, a source who was on the line told the outlet that Ryan said he wasn’t “unendorsing the candidate.”
That became evident at the ballot box.
Though Ryan and Trump had a strained relationship before Election Day, the speaker justified his vote for the president in a November 2016 Fox News interview during which he argued, “We need to support our entire Republican ticket.”
Trump and Ryan’s rocky rapport continued during the congressman’s tenure, as detailed in Team of Vipers, a tell-all written by former White House aide Cliff Sims and released earlier this year.
Angered by Ryan’s criticism of his response to the 2017 white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump berated the lawmaker, The Washington Post reported, citing a section of the book.
“Paul, do you know why Democrats have been kicking your ass for decades?” Trump asked at the time. “Because they know a little word called ‘loyalty.’”