While former FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) attempted to defend the president by claiming that Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing.
In his weekly press conference Thursday morning, Ryan tried to distract from the blockbuster hearing by giving a presentation on House Republicans’ legislative accomplishments this year. When asked about Comey’s testimony in which he claimed that Trump asked him for loyalty and to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Ryan claimed that Trump didn’t know better.
“The president is new at this,” Ryan said. “He’s new to government. And so he probably wasn’t steeped into the long going protocols that established the relationships between DOJ, FBI, and White Houses.”
When a reporter questioned why that’s an “acceptable excuse,” given that Trump has a staff and counsel that should have been informed, Ryan reiterated that Trump did not know what he was doing.
“He’s new at government,” Ryan said. “Therefore I think he is learning as he goes.”
The comments come after an interview Wednesday in which Ryan said that it is “obviously” not appropriate for Trump to ask the FBI director for loyalty.
But on Thursday, he tried to shift attention to the part of Comey’s testimony that Republicans think reflects favorably on Trump. Ryan claimed he understands why Trump would be frustrated “when the FBI tells him on three different occasions he’s not under investigation,” yet speculation continues.
The Speaker is not the only prominent Republican lawmaker that is scrambling to defend the president this week. The GOP and Republican National Committee are both running with the idea that Comey’s testimony “will confirm what Democrats and the media have been denying for weeks: That Comey did in fact tell the president three times that he was not under investigation.”
Trump himself backed away from that defense early Thursday, deciding instead to dispute key portions of the testimony, like the allegations that he asked for loyalty and that he asked Comey to let go of the Flynn probe.