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Ryan Reminds Caucus to Play 'Proper Role' in Conducting Executive Branch Oversight

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said outside of a closed caucus meeting on Capitol Hill today that he told Republican lawmakers “to be responsible, sober, and focus only on gathering the facts” in the Trump-Russia investigation, including this week’s reports that Trump revealed classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office last week and that a memo from former FBI Director James Comey alleges the president asked him to drop the agency’s probe into former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn.

“Look, there’s been a lot of reporting lately, I think, that requires close examination. Let me tell you what I told our members just this morning. We need the facts,” Ryan said in response to a question after focusing his remarks on tax reform.

“It is obvious there — there are some people out there who want to harm the president. But we have an obligation to carry out our oversight, regardless of which party is in the White House. And that means, before rushing to judgment, we get all the pertinent information,” he added.

Ryan noted that House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) “appropriately” sent a letter to Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe asking that all Comey memos or recordings related to his meetings with Trump be turned over to the committee by May 24.

The committee “is going to get the Comey memo, if it exists,” Chaffetz tweeted. “I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee today requested not just the Comey memos from the FBI but all possible White House recordings or related memos from White House Counsel Don McGahn, also by May 24.

Ryan added that he’s “sure we’re going to want to hear from Mr. Comey about why, if this happened as he allegedly describes — why didn’t he take action at the time?”

“So, there are a lot of unanswered questions. What I told our members is now is the time to gather all the pertinent information. Our job is to be responsible, sober, and focus only on gathering the facts. That is what Congress does in conducting oversight of the Executive Branch,” he said.

Asked if he wants to see Comey testify in an open hearing, the Speaker said he’d leave it up to the pertinent committees and was “not going to micromanage or armchair-quarterback investigations.”

“We can’t deal with speculation and innuendo. And there’s clearly a lot of politics being played,” he added. “Our job is to get the facts and to be sober about doing that.”

Ryan said of midterm elections and whether troubles at the White House would hurt Republicans’ chances: “I don’t worry about things that are outside of my control.”

“A lot of work is being done. That’s the proper role of the legislative branch in conducting oversight of the executive branch,” he said. “And we’re not going to be trying to play to the crowd or try to meet timelines. We’re going to do it the right way and follow the facts wherever they may lead.”

After the media availability, both Ryan’s office and the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sent out press releases touting Republicans’ ambitions on tax reform.