Columns

Ryan Ahead of Trump Meeting: 'We Just Need to Get to Know Each Other'

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) arrives for a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) stressed of Donald Trump “we just need to get to know each other” ahead of their planned Thursday meeting.

Speaking to reporters outside of a closed caucus meeting on Capitol Hill, Ryan said his lack of an endorsement thus far is not hurting party unity.

“What we’re trying to do is be as constructive as possible to have a real unification,” Ryan said. “Look, I said this the other day, to pretend we’re unified as a party, after coming through a very bruising primary — which just ended like a week ago — to pretend we’re unified without actually unifying, then we go into the fall at half strength.”

“This election is too important to go into an election at half strength. That means we need a real unification of our party — which, you know, look, after a tough primary, that’s going to take some effort,” he continued. “We are committed to putting that effort in. I want to be a part of that unifying process, so that we’re at full strength this fall, so that we can win this election.”

“We cannot afford to lose this election to Hillary Clinton, to pack the Supreme Court, to keep the liberal Obama — Obama agenda going. We have to be at full strength, so that we can win this election. And that is why we had to go through the actual effort and process of unifying.”

Ryan said his differences with Trump, and how that affects his endorsement, are “conversations we’re going to have.”

“I don’t really know him; I met him once in person in 2012. We had a very good conversation in March on the phone. We just need to get to know each other. And we, as a leadership team, are enjoying the fact that we have a chance to meet with him,” he added. “So, I’d rather have a conversation in person than through the media, no offense.”

The speaker stressed that “this is a big tent party” with “plenty of room for different policy disputes in this party.”

“We come from different wings of the party. The goal here is to unify the various wings of the party around common principles, so that we can go forward to unify it,” he said.

Trump surrogate Ben Carson called Ryan last night, telling the Washington Post afterward, “I suspect that after they meet they’ll feel much closer.”

Ryan said Carson “is a great guy” and is “just trying to provide a constructive role to help — he wants to be a force to help all the various wings of the Republican Party and the conservative movement to come together, and he is trying to play the constructive role.”

“I really believe that if we’re going to be successful this fall, we have to unify our party, we have to go forward with a positive message that Americans see that we have solutions to their problems,” Ryan added.