House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed as “ancient history” a tape of him speaking to lawmakers during the 2016 campaign and insisting he would not defend then-candidate Donald Trump.
“I’ve got really thick skin. This is ancient history,” Ryan said in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday night, offering his first reaction to audio posted by Breitbart News.
The tape — from a private conference call in October — was covered at the time. But the full release of the audio on Tuesday made waves anew in conservative circles. And it seemed timed to highlight divisions in the Republican caucus, as Ryan has faced criticism from some conservatives for his handling of the House-led effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.
In the October audio, Ryan says he will “not defend Donald Trump — not now, not in the future.” The conference call with lawmakers came came shortly after the release of an “Access Hollywood” video in which Trump boasted about grabbing women and other sexual exploits.
In the Fox interview Tuesday, Ryan made clear his relationship with Trump has changed: He said he had spoken to the president twice on Tuesday alone — and said the two talk regularly.
Tuesday’s chat was focused on “details. About the kind of changes we want. It was a status check,” Ryan said.
Ryan said that some changes would be made to the bill to account for members’ concerns. But he cautioned that neither he nor Trump were prepared to make big changes. “We’re keeping this bill intact but we’re obviously going to make some modifications per members’ feedback.”
“We’ve been flexible,” he said. The current period is for “making sure everybody’s on the same page.”
“We have to write this in such a way that it can’t get filibustered, that it can pass with 51 votes in the Senate,” he said.
He added, “We don’t want to make the bill harder to pass.” .
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