The president's idea to end birthright citizenship — a right that is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution — has been met with significant pushback, including from members of his own Republican party. But after Paul Ryan added his voice in dismissing the notion on Tuesday, Trump said his birthright citizenship plan should be the least of the house speaker's worries right now.
"Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about!" Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning. "Our new Republican Majority will work on this, Closing the Immigration Loopholes and Securing our Border!"
Ryan had gone on a Kentucky radio station Tuesday to refute the possibility of Trump ending birthright citizenship with an executive order. "You obviously cannot do that," he told WVLK. "As a conservative, I'm a believer in following the plain text of the Constitution and I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear."
Ryan announced in April that he would not be running for reelection in Wisconsin's First District. Instead, he's spent the last several months campaigning for GOP candidates across the country, raising more than $70 million, according to CNBC. In the last few weeks before the election alone, Ryan planned to stump for 25 vulnerable candidates across more than 10 states.
Even so, with less than a week before the midterm elections, a number of indicators — the president's falling approval ratings, and recent poll numbers — have pointed to the possibility of a Democratic majority in the House. Trump has flip-flopped on his responsibility for midterm outcomes, at times saying a vote for Republican candidates is a vote for Trump, and at others emphasizing that a GOP defeat in November would not be his fault.
On top of that, with so many tight races being run across the nation, some Republicans seemed to think Trump lashing out at Ryan was unhelpful, and unnecessarily divisive. "This is a great way to screw up the message a week before the election," a senior aide told CNN. "First the birthright comment itself and now attacking the top Republican in Congress who is trying to save our majority."
"Attacking Paul Ryan, who has busted his butt for the House Republican team, on the eve of this midterm is gobsmackingly counterproductive," Republican political strategist Michael Steel, told The Hill, "particularly since the president has been 100 percent clear that this election is a referendum on his leadership and his administration."
Trump announced on Tuesday that he was considering signing an executive order to end birthright citizenship, another demonstration of his hard-line stance on immigration. According to CNN, he pointed to President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, signed by executive order, to justify the move. The difference, however, is that the DACA plan to provide a pathway to public education and legal employment for children brought to the United States at a young age did not require changing a constitutional amendment.
Trump has repeatedly and incorrectly claimed that he could enact such a a policy by executive order, and while Ryan refuted the possibility, he did say he agrees with the larger goal. "The President is getting at the root issue here, which is unchecked illegal immigration," Ryan told WVLK. "We — House Republicans and this President — are in total agreement on the need to stop illegal immigration, to secure our border and fix our laws."