NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Despite House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., supporting Donald Trump as he seeks the White House, the Republican presidential nominee is refusing to back them in upcoming GOP primaries.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Trump said he is “not quite there yet” in backing Ryan, echoing the words the Wisconsin Republican used several months ago in withholding his endorsement of Trump before relenting weeks later with tepid support.
“I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country,” Trump told the Post. “We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.”
Trump even praised Ryan’s opponent, Paul Nehlen, for running “a very good campaign.”
“[Ryan’s] opponent is a big fan of what I’m saying — big fan,” Trump said. “His opponent, who’s running a very good campaign, obviously, I’ve heard — his opponent sent me a very scholarly and well thought out letter yesterday and all I did was say thank you very much for your very nice letter. You saw my statement.”
The letter Trump referred to was Nehlen defending Trump’s comments about Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq in 2004.
“I’m giving very serious consideration to that whole situation, to Ryan, to Paul,” Trump stated.
Ryan’s primary is Aug. 9.
“Neither Speaker Ryan nor anyone on his team has ever asked for Donald Trump’s endorsement,” said Zack Roday, Ryan’s campaign spokesman. “And we are confident in a victory next week regardless.”
Trump also declined to back McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam who was critical of Trump’s criticism of the Khans.
“I’ve never been there with John McCain because I’ve always felt that he should have done a much better job for the vets,” Trump explained to the Post. “He has not done a good job for the vets and I’ve always felt that he should have done a much better job for the vets. So I’ve always had a difficult time with John for that reason, because our vets are not being treated properly. They’re not being treated fairly.”
Trump criticized New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who also admonished Trump for his comments.
“I don’t know Kelly Ayotte. I know she’s given me no support — zero support — and yet I’m leading her in the polls. I’m doing very well in New Hampshire. We need loyal people in this country. We need fighters in this country. We don’t need weak people. We have enough of them. We need fighters in this country. But Kelly Ayotte has given me zero support, and I’m doing great in New Hampshire,” Trump said.
Trump’s refusal to back the incumbents is a breach of political decorum that comes just two weeks after a convention designed to showcase party unity.
The trio each chided Trump for engaging in a flap with the Khans. Khizr Khan criticized Trump’s position on Muslims and asked whether the real estate mogul had read the Constitution. Trump said the grieving father had “no right” to criticize him but later acknowledged their son is a hero.
McCain responded with a lengthy denunciation in which he said Trump does not have “unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.”
Ryan condemned any criticism of Muslim Americans who serve their country, while Ayotte declared she was “appalled” by Trump’s spat with the Khans.
Trump also took heat for some light-hearted remarks at a rally in Virginia Tuesday.
He was interrupted Tuesday by the wails of a child — and Trump joked that he wanted the crying baby ejected from his rally.
“Don’t worry about that baby, I love babies,” Trump said. “I hear that baby crying, I like it. What a beautiful baby.”
But when the baby continued to cry, Trump followed up by saying he was “kidding. You can get that baby out of here,” he said.
Trump still appeared to be joking. It was unclear if the child’s mother left the room or if the child just fell silent.
Trump’s controversies on Tuesday came after President Barack Obama slammed the Republican nominee as “unfit” and “woefully unprepared” to serve in the White House.
He challenged Republican lawmakers to drop their support for their party’s nominee, declaring, “There has to come a point at which you say enough.”
Also Tuesday, upstate U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) became the first House Republican to say he was voting for Hillary Clinton.
“In his latest foray of insults, Mr. Trump has attacked the parents of a slain U.S. soldier. Where do we draw the line? I thought it would have been when he alleged that U.S. Sen. John McCain was not a war hero because he was caught. Or the countless other insults he’s proudly lobbed from behind the Republican presidential podium,” Hanna wrote in an op-ed on Syracuse.com. “For me, it is not enough to simply denounce his comments: He is unfit to serve our party and cannot lead this country.”
Hanna is retiring from the House.
Hewlett Packard executive and Republican fundraiser Meg Whitman also said she would vote for Clinton and give her campaign a “substantial” contribution in an effort to halt Trump, the New York Times reported.
But Trump also had a victory to claim on Tuesday. In San Diego, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who has been a target of Trump’s repeated scorn on Tuesday, denied a media request to release of videos of the Trump testifying in a lawsuit about the now-defunct Trump University — videos that Trump’s attorneys had argued would have been used to tarnish the campaign.
Curiel in his written ruling said that “while there is a degree of legitimate public interest in the demeanor of the defendant in the deposition videos,” it did not outweigh the potential harm the ongoing media scrutiny of the footage could do to the case.
He said the man approached him before his event in Ashburn, Virginia, and handed him his Purple Heart medal, which is awarded to soldiers wounded in combat. He told the crowd at his rally that he has “always wanted to get the Purple Heart.”
“I said to him, ‘Is that, like, the real one or is that a copy?”‘ Trump recounted. “And he said, ‘That’s my real Purple Heart. I have such confidence in you.’ And I said, `Man! That’s like, that’s like big stuff.”‘
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did not have any appearances Tuesday, but her running mate, Tim Kaine, weighed in the incident with the baby at the Virginia rally, which has been dubbed “Baby Gate.”
“Sometimes you wonder who the baby is, right?” Kaine said of Trump. “You wonder who the baby is.”
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