During a news conference in Atlanta on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was asked for his thoughts about news that President Trump’s personal lawyer made a $130,000 hush payment just days before the 2016 election to an adult film actress who allegedly had an affair with Trump — a payment that the White House accidentally admitted on Wednesday the president was involved in.
While watchdog groups argue the payment may have violated federal elections law, Ryan — who was in Atlanta to speak with Home Depot employees about the Republican tax cut bill — indicated he couldn’t care less.
“I’m not even — I haven’t put a second of thought into this,” Ryan said, a look of frustration visible on his face. “It’s just not on my radar screen.”
The CNN reporter who asked Ryan the question wanted him to respond to comments made on Wednesday by Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), who called the Daniels story “deeply troubling.”
“What we can’t do in the body politic is whitewash the past or be purely tribal in our thinking, wherein, let’s reverse the shoes, if it was a Democratic president and hush money had been paid in the campaign, would there be a series of hearings going on?” Sanford said. “I think you could probably point to a fair number of indications that suggest there would be.”
Not only is the Daniels payment morally problematic, but it might have been illegal. Paul Seamus Ryan, the Vice President of Policy and Litigation at watchdog nonprofit Common Cause, told ThinkProgress that the payment Trump’s attorney made to Daniels may have violated federal law, depending on where the money came from.
“This was a big payment, $130,000 payment, to keep information away from voters that voters probably would have cared about when they were walking into the election booth back in November of 2016,” Ryan said. “We don’t know where this $130,000 came from… If it came from anyone other than Donald Trump himself, then it was an illegally large, or perhaps an illegal corporate, political contribution.”
But the Speaker of the House can’t be bothered about any of that. And Thursday wasn’t the first time Ryan has signaled that he’s completely disinterested in the scandals constantly surrounding Trump. In October, Ryan urged the American public to “forget about” Trump’s tweets, despite the fact that numerous White House officials have characterized them as official statements.
Ryan has suggested he’s not being honest when he professes ignorance about what the president says and does. During a roast in October, he said, “Every morning, I wake up in my office and scroll Twitter to see which tweets I will have to pretend that I didn’t see later.”