A previously unreleased audio recording of House Speaker Paul Ryan telling Republican congressional representatives that he would never again defend the party's presidential nominee was published by Breitbart News on Monday evening, the latest salvo in the war between the beleaguered speaker and the far-right news outlet sparked by the introduction of the American Health Care Act.
The audio tape was recorded during a conference call between Ryan and Republican members of the House of Representatives on October 10, 2016, three days after a decade-old video surfaced showing then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. In the recording, Ryan is heard telling his fellow party members that he would not defend Trump then or in the future.
“His comments are not anywhere in keeping with our party’s principles and values,” Ryan said in the recording, comments that have been previously reported, albeit not verbatim.
“There are basically two things that I want to make really clear, as for myself as your Speaker," Ryan continued. "I am not going to defend Donald Trump—not now, not in the future. As you probably heard, I disinvited him from my first congressional district GOP event this weekend—a thing I do every year. And I’m not going to be campaigning with him over the next 30 days.”
Ryan continued, telling members of the Republican caucus that “I have real concerns with our nominee,” but insisting that maintaining the Republican majority in Congress remained his top concern.
"I’m doing what I think is best for you, the members, not what’s best for me," Ryan said. "So, I want to do what’s best for our members, and I think this is the right thing to do. I’m going to focus my time on campaigning for House Republicans. I talked to a bunch of you over the last 72 hours and here is basically my takeaway. To everyone on this call, this is going to be a turbulent month. Many of you on this call are facing tough reelections. Some of you are not. But with respect to Donald Trump, I would encourage you to do what you think is best and do what you feel you need to do. Personally, you need to decide what’s best for you. And you all know what’s best for you where you are.”
The leak of the audio recording is nearly guaranteed to further strain the long-frayed relations between the Trump administration and Republican congressional leadership, and could not come at a worse time for either: the introduction of the AHCA has infuriated right-leaning members of Congress and their supporters—Breitbart News among them—who see the bill as "Obamacare Lite." The Trump administration's support for the bill as-written has consequently wavered, with the president reportedly even floating the possibility of simply allowing Obamacare to "explode" rather than implement a replacement—allowing Democrats to take the blame for its failure.
When asked about the contents of the tape, Ryan's office was dismissive.
“The world is well aware of this history,” spokesperson Brendan Buck told Breitbart. “And obviously a lot has happened since then. As everyone knows.”