Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who will serve as the chairman of the Republican National Convention in July, says he cannot support Donald Trump for president—at least not yet.
The statement by Ryan, who was the party's 2012 vice presidential nominee, indicates just how divisive Trump remains within his own party, even as he has become the GOP's presumptive nominee. And it represents a turn, of sorts, for Ryan, who, despite delivering several blistering implicit criticisms of Trump's comments throughout the campaign, has previously said that he planned to support the GOP nominee, whoever that person is.
Asked directly by CNN's Jake Tapper this afternoon, Ryan said, "Right now, no. There's some work to be done here."
What, specifically, caused Ryan to withhold his support? The Speaker declined to specify, saying, "I don't want to go back and roll the tape."
But over the last several months, Ryan has issued a number of statements starkly critical of positions that Trump has taken, although he has never criticized Trump directly, by name.
Instead, Ryan insisted that Trump needed to unify the party, and to become a standard bearer for Trump's ideas. And he suggested that Trump's success should cause GOP leaders to react with some humility, saying that Trump "tapped into something that was very powerful, and people are sending a message to Washington that we need to learn and listen to."
Still, Ryan left himself plenty of wiggle room to come around to supporting Trump at some later point. Although he repeatedly refused to support Trump during the interview, he always qualified that he was declining to support Trump at the moment. Obviously, he's leaving open the possibility that he'll change his mind. Indeed, he hinted that he was hoping he would be able to endorse Trump, saying he believed it was "possible" that Trump could unite the party, but that "we're not there right now."
I suspect that, before too long, he'll fall in line behind the GOP nominee. With its qualifiers and its hopeful tone, this played more like an attempt to influence the Trump campaign, to push it in the direction that Ryan would prefer, than a prelude Ryan's eventual refusal to back Trump.
He didn't leave himself many alternatives, ruling out, again, the possibility of accepting the nomination for president himself—as well as the possibility of support for the Democratic nominee. "No Republican should ever think about supporting Clinton," he said, "let me make that clear."
Update: Trump has issued a response. "I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan's agenda. Perhaps in the future we can work together and come to an agreement about what is best for the American people," Trump said in a statement, according to Politico. "They have been treated so badly for so long that it is about time for politicians to put them first!"