Ryan spoke to reporters at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday afternoon, and said he agreed with an “initial assessment” by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who maintained publicly last week that the FBI’s use of an informant to obtain information about Russia’s involvement in the Trump campaign was “appropriate.”
“I think Chairman Gowdy’s initial assessment is accurate,” Ryan told reporters. He, along with Gowdy and other congressional leaders, was briefed by the Justice Department on the FBI’s use of the informant. “I have seen no evidence to the contrary of the initial assessment Chairman Gowdy has made,” Ryan said.
Ryan was also asked if he believes that the president has the power to pardon himself of any crimes he may have committed. “Obviously, the answer is he shouldn’t, and no one is above the law,” Ryan said.
Ryan also criticized the Department of Justice for stalling the efforts by the House investigators to obtain documents concerning the use of the FBI informant. He said that there’s still a need to reach a “final answer” on questions about the informant.
When Gowdy first dismissed Trump’s “spygate” theory last week, he was verbally assaulted on TV and in social media by Trump’s ardent supporters. And now Ryan’s comments are also attracting heavy fire from Trump’s allies who don’t like anyone to contradict the conspiracy theories of the president.
Trump has made repeated claims with no evidence that the FBI inserted a “spy” into his presidential campaign for political purposes. He even came up with a new term to describe it: “Spygate.”
On Tuesday, he made reference to an internet conspiracy theory to suggest the spying began in 2015, months before the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election began, again with no evidence to support his assertions.
Ryan has announced his retirement from Congress at the end of the current term, but more and more Republicans are stating publicly their opinion that the Speaker should go now instead of waiting.
“Once again, this is Speaker Ryan being unhelpful to the Republican efforts to keep control of the House and pick up Senate seats,” said one Trump supporter. “He needs to go … now.”
The No. 2 and No. 3 House Republican leaders, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, both want to be speaker and both have been supportive of the president’s “spygate” accusations.
A Ryan ally, however, Rep. Tom Rooney, who is on the House Intelligence Committee, said “Paul’s right” and argued that the entire “spygate” narrative is silly.
Clearly Ryan has decided to stay in power for the time being, and also has decided to stand up to the president by doing what he believes is the right thing. Just last week he strongly criticized Trump’s proposal to slap tariffs on U.S. allies. Ryan argued that the White House should be going after China for unfair trade practices instead.
Although Trump and his allies are not likely to be swayed by Ryan’s latest comments, what he says may have an impact on voters looking to Congress to exercise more oversight over the executive branch. Regardless, what Ryan said was very important and timely and is not good news for the president or for Republican prospects in the midterm elections. He spoke the truth, and for Republicans, that is a dangerous thing.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.