A day after President Trump’s joint press conference with Vladimir Putin that resulted in even some Republicans condemning his comments, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan spoke with reporters and garnered criticism for not directly criticizing President Trump in his attempt to clarify his position, Roll Call reports.
“Let me be really clear,” Ryan said as a reporter asked the first of several consecutive questions about Russia during a GOP leadership press conference Tuesday. “Let me try and be as clear as I can to the world and the country: We stand by our NATO allies and all those countries who are facing Russia aggression.”
Ryan acknowledged that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election, calling Russia a “menacing government” while pointing out that wanting good relations with Russia is reasonable, The Hill reports.
“Vladimir Putin does not share our interests; Vladimir Putin does not share our values. … [Russia] did interfere in our elections. Let me be really clear. There should be no doubt about that. It’s also clear that it did not have a material effect on our elections,” Ryan told reporters a day after Trump and Putin’s joint news conference in Helsinki rocked Washington.
“I understand a desire to have good relations, that is perfectly reasonable;” Ryan added. “But Russia is a menacing government that does not share our interests. And it does not share our values and I think that should be made very very clear.”
Ryan succinctly answered “I do not” when asked if he agreed with former CIA director John Brennan calling President Trump’s actions in the joint press conference “treasonous”.
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
At the press conference in Helsinki, Donald Trump publicly accepted Putin’s assurance that Russia didn’t interfere in the 2016 election over the US intelligence communities’ assessment that they did, an answer that drew outrage from both sides of the political aisle.
The Hill reports that Ryan acknowledged the possibility that Congress could opt to impose additional sanctions on Russia in light of the 12 indictments against Russian military officers who are accused of committing hacking the DNC and other cyber crimes in the 2016 presidential election.
“If the Foreign Affairs of Financial Services committees and Senate Banking Committee think that there are other sanctions that we have not placed on Russia,” Ryan said, “I am more than happy to consider those.”
Asked about the Mueller investigation and House Intelligence Committee report that contradicted the Intelligence Community Assessment and the Senate Intelligence Committee findings that Russia interfered in the election with the intent to help Donald Trump win, Ryan deferred to the committee’s findings, CNN reports.
The speaker, however, declined to endorse further protections for the special counsel’s investigation or criticize a House Republican report that, in contrast to US intelligence agencies’ findings, said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions were not aimed at helping President Donald Trump’s candidacy.
When asked if the president should correct his comments, Ryan referred reporters to the statement he released after the Helsinki press conference:
“There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence. The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”
⊕ Speaker Ryan is retiring from Congress at the end of this term, declining to seek reelection in 2018
⊕ Ryan has drawn criticism for failing to condemn President Trump’s controversial actions
⊕ Ryan stated, regarding the special counsel’s investigation, “I’ve been clear from day one. He should be allowed to finish his investigation and carry out his work. Nothing has changed.”
⊕ He also pointed out the House Intelligence Committee found fault with the “analytical tradecraft” and that the House believes “there were some mistakes made by the IC”.