For months, congressional Republicans have struggled to deal with President Donald Trump's stream of controversial, even scandal-inducing statements. Thus far, many are either staying silent about them, or indulging in verbal gymnastics to not seem overly-critical of the president. Case in point: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on Trump's "nut job" comment about James Comey.
Specifically, while speaking with Mike Allen of Axios, Ryan made it clear that he doesn't share Trump's disparaging assessment of Comey. It was a short and to-the-point reply, not offering anything that remotely sounds like criticism or rebuke ― merely a statement of disagreement with the president. "Yeah, I don't agree with that," Ryan said. "And he's not."
According to a New York Times report last week, Trump called the former FBI director a "nut job" in a conversation with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak earlier this month. He also reportedly claimed that firing Comey had taken some of the "pressure" off of him, one of multiple Trump statements that suggest it was done to thwart the FBI's Trump-Russia investigation.
That was the same meeting in which Trump reportedly divulged classified ISIS-related intelligence, believed to have been shared with the U.S. by Israel, to Lavrov and Kislyak. Trump insisted to the press during his Israel visit this week that he never actually said the country's name during the meeting ― thus confirming, for all intents and purposes, that Israel was the source of the intelligence.
Suffice it to say, that fateful meeting has caused the administration and its supporters in Congress a lot of trouble, and not just because of the "nut job" remark. Ryan, for his part, is clearly eager to distance himself from the whole thing, as he also refused to answer Allen's question about reports Trump asked Comey to squash the Mike Flynn investigation.
He did offer credit to Trump for his work on passing the Republican Obamacare replacement bill, the American Health Care Act (also known as Trumpcare), praising his level of "engagement," although to whatever extent that's true, it took place entirely behind closed doors and outside the view of the public.
Try as he might, this surely won't be the last time Ryan is asked about Trump's incendiary behavior, or the myriad scandals that are shaking the foundations of his administration. But if you're looking for a safe bet, you should put your money on him giving a lot more answers like this ― contradictory, but not the slightest bit confrontational.