House Speaker Paul Ryan emphatically attempted to justify his support for Donald Trump on Tuesday, calling the upcoming presidential election “a binary choice” in which he must overlook some of Trump’s less popular positions.
Audience members at a CNN town hall event in New York repeatedly grilled Ryan on his tepid support for the presumptive Republican nominee, at times getting into testy exchanges with each other.
One person challenged Ryan on Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the US, an idea for which Ryan has criticised Trump in the past.
“How do you explain to the 1.6 billion Muslims that we trade with, that we ally with, that live next door to us, how you endorse a man who has that proposal on his agenda?” she asked.
“We have a binary choice — Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton. I pick Donald Trump,” Ryan responded. “We don’t have people who run for office that 100% reflect all of our views. It doesn’t work like that. We have to find people who reflect most of our views, and whose views are more reflective of our views than the other candidate.”
Another audience member, a Republican student who said he will not vote for Trump, questioned how Ryan could “morally support” a candidate who is “openly racist and has made Islamophobic statements.”
“That basically means you’re going to help elect Hillary Clinton,” Ryan quickly fired back.
The conversation soon shifted to the upcoming Republican National Convention, which kicks off next week in Cleveland. New Jersey Republican Steve Lonegan — a leader in the effort to “unbind” Republican delegates from their states’ primary results, asked Ryan if he will support an “open convention” in which delegates can “vote their conscience” in hopes of nominating another candidate.
“It is not my job as chairman of the convention to tell the delegates how to run their convention. It is my job to take the rules that they write for the convention and make sure those rules are applied equally, honestly, and transparently,” Ryan said.
Lonegan, who has called for an “insurrection” at the GOP convention didn’t seem satisfied.
“That’s something of an answer. It’s a non-answer answer,” Lonegan replied.
Ryan shot back: “My answer is no, I’m not going to tell the delegates what to do. It is their decision because they run the party.”
Lonegan answered, “I’d just like to remind you, Mr. Speaker, that as a bottom-up party, we have a representative form of government in which the delegates also represent the 75% of Republicans who did not vote for Donald Trump.”
The Convention Rules Committee will meet tomorrow to discuss whether to amend the rules on how delegates may vote.
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