Speaker Paul Ryan defended President Donald Trump’s dismissal of FBI director James Comey during an interview on Wednesday, arguing that Comey had been “compromised” and “lost the confidence” of the American people.
Breaking a more than 24-hour silence following Comey’s controversial firing, Ryan said on Fox News that Comey had “become an issue himself.” The Wisconsin Republican — once one of Trump’s biggest congressional critics — also argued that Trump had acted “entirely within a president’s role and authority” and said there was no need for a special prosecutor or special committee to probe Russian election interference and possible collusion with Trump’s presidential campaign.
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“The truth is that James Comey who is a worthwhile, dedicated public servant, had basically lost the confidence of a lot of Republicans, a lot of Democrats, based on his conduct, his actions and some of the comments he had made. And most importantly, he had lost the confidence of the president,” Ryan told Fox News’ Bret Baier.
Ryan also said “the president was looking at a situation where you had senior Justice Department officials losing confidence.”
“Trump] does not want to see the FBI in disarray,” he continued. "He wants to see the FBI running and moving well."
Ryan’s response echoed that of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who on Wednesday firmly rejected calls for a special prosecutor or select committee.
Ryan’s comments also fall in line with a general pattern of defending Trump he has taken since Election Day. During the campaign, Ryan was one of the most high-profile Republicans to criticize Trump’s off-color comments about minorities or women. He even uninvited Trump from a Wisconsin campaign rally after the “Access Hollywood” video went viral in early October.
His attitude shifted after Trump won the election. Trump effectively saved Ryan from an internal mutiny by expressing his support that he remain speaker and, since then, Ryan has generally supported Trump and avoided his more controversial remarks, telling telling reporters he doesn’t like to answer questions about the “tweet of the day” and emphasizing their cooperation with the White House.
Comey’s firing, though, will likely become problematic for Ryan as he tries to move legislation through the House. During a factory tour and a business roundtable in Columbus, Ohio, earlier Wednesday, Ryan’s pitch for tax reform kept getting interrupted by reporters asking questions about Comey.
While speaking to local business leaders, meanwhile, his Twitter was lighting up about his lack of response.
On Fox News, Ryan urged the president to move swiftly to nominate a new FBI director. He said the House and the Senate would continue their Russia investigations.
“The president saw an FBI director where the people had lost confidence in him from both parties, including high senior officials at the justice department, and he acted and that’s what a president should do,” Ryan said.