THE BIG IDEA:
NEW ALBANY, Ohio — Rep. Paul Ryan desperately does not want the dark cloud hanging over the White House to distract congressional Republicans from advancing their ambitious policy agenda. Yesterday showed that he may no longer have a choice.
Donald Trump called the speaker of the House to give him a heads up that he was going to fire FBI director James B. Comey, yet Ryan (R-Wis.) still waited more than 24 hours after the news broke to make any public statement.
Repeating the pattern of last year’s campaign, the president sucked up all the oxygen and put Ryan on the defensive. The 2012 GOP nominee for vice president rolled up in a long motorcade to a plant here in central Ohio as part of an effort to jump-start his push for comprehensive tax reform.
But Ryan could not escape the Comey news, and some Republicans back in Washington freely acknowledged that the growing scandal will make passing big-ticket legislation, including tax reform, much harder.
The congressman from Wisconsin sniffed a canister of walleye bait that gets packaged at the facility. “I spray my lures,” he explained to his tour guide. As cameramen pleaded with him to say anything on the Comey news, he replied: “I’m not doing questions right now.”
At a roundtable with small-business owners later, he said: “I want to tell my friends in the press I’ll be making some statements later about the questions that they all have. At another time. But, right now, we want to talk with the people here about the issues that they are facing.”
The president firing an FBI director who was overseeing an investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with the Russians is apparently not one of those issues.
Finally, after dodging the reporters who flew here to see him, he went on Fox News last night and offered support for Trump’s decision. “It is entirely within the president’s role and authority to relieve him, and that’s what he did,” Ryan said. “The president made a presidential decision.”