Paul Ryan says he doesn’t know if millions of Americans voted illegally for Hillary Clinton, and he refused to repudiate Donald Trump’s groundless claims of a vast voter-fraud conspiracy.
In an interview on CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” the speaker was asked about Trump’s tweet that said he would have won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
“I don’t know,” the Wisconsin Republican said in response. “I’m not really focused on these things.”
Politicians on both sides of the aisle —as well as election officials — have dismissed Trump’s voter fraud claims, saying they’re baseless while arguing they undermine faith in democracy.
When interviewer Scott Pelley pressed the matter, Ryan continued: “I have no way of backing that up. I have no knowledge of such things.”
“It doesn’t matter to me,” he added. “He won the election.”
Ryan’s refusal to disavow Trump’s controversial comments marks a change from his approach to the real estate mogul during the presidential race, when the speaker repeatedly called out Trump for behavior Ryan thought was inappropriate. But since Trump’s victory, Ryan has emphasized his areas of agreement with President-elect.
In the “60 Minutes” interview, in fact, Ryan insisted he and Trump have patched over their differences, letting “bygones be bygones.” They talk daily, he said, adding that he calls Trump’s cell phone for regular conversations that last between 20 and 45 minutes.
Ryan said one of his first orders of business next year is helping the Trump administration dismantle Obamacare. Ryan wouldn’t give a timeframe for the health care law’s repeal, but he echoed Trump’s desire to maintain popular parts of the law, including provisions that bar insurance companies from discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions, and allow adults up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ plans.
“What we know is we have to make good on this promise,” he said. “We have to bring relief as fast as possible to people who are struggling under Obamacare.”
Ryan also said he supports Trump’s modified immigration pitch, including a plan to deport what Trump says are two million criminally convicted undocumented immigrants, and to bolster border security with some kind of physical improvement to be determined in the future.
Ryan did, however, reaffirm his desire to reform Medicare — something Trump years ago called a “death wish” for the Republican party. While Ryan said he had no immediate plans to change Social Security, Medicare “goes bankrupt in about 10 years.”
“The trust fund runs out of money, so we have to make sure that we shore this program up,” said Ryan, who admitted he has not spoken to Trump about his plans. “For those of us — you know, the X-generation on down — it won’t be there for us on its current path. So we have to bring reform to this program for the younger generation so that it’s there for us when we retire.”
For most of the interview, Ryan struck a Trump-ian tone: Looking out over the speaker’s balcony — with its expansive view of the entire National Mall — Ryan agreed the place he has worked for several decades is “absolutely” part of the problem, not the solution. The 10-term lawmaker, who was a staffer before he ran for Congress, said the buildings in the distance were a reminder of all the bureaucracies that control Washington: “HHS, Education, EPA.”
When Pelley asked Ryan if the new Trump Hotel on the skyline was a reminder of “who’s the boss” in this town, Ryan’s competitive side came through for a brief second.
“The Washington Monument’s the tallest one,” he said. “And by the way, the [Capitol] dome, it’s a little higher.”
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