WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters on Capitol Hill today that he did not agree with former CIA Director John Brennan calling President Trump’s statements with Russian President Vladimir Putin treasonous, while stressing there “should be no doubt” that Russia conducted a campaign influence operation in 2016.
Ryan was asked if he would use the term he once used to describe President Obama’s foreign policy — “catastrophically meek” — to describe Trump’s Helsinki summit.
“Let me be really clear. Let me try and be as clear as I can to the world and the country,” he replied. “We stand by our NATO allies and all those countries who are facing Russia aggression.”
“How many times have I stood up here and told you what I think about Vladimir Putin? Vladimir Putin does not share our interests. Vladimir Putin does not share our values,” he added. “We just conducted a year-long investigation into Russia’s interference in our elections. They did interfere in our elections. It’s really clear. There should be no doubt about that.”
Ryan noted that the report from House Intelligence Committee Republicans determined “that it didn’t have a material effect on our elections.”
“But as a result of that, we passed tough sanctions on Russia so that we could hold them accountable,” he said. “I understand the desire and need to have good relations. That’s perfectly reasonable. But Russia is a menacing government that does not share our interests and it does not share our values, and I think that should be made very, very clear.”
Pressed on what more Congress can do, Ryan said that “if the Foreign Affairs Committee or the Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee think that there are other sanctions that we have not yet placed upon Russia, I’m more than happy to consider those.”
Ryan was asked if, after Putin said at Monday’s news conference that he wanted Trump to win the election, the House Intelligence report disputing that same finding in the intelligence community’s 2017 report was a mistake by Republicans.
“I’ll refer you to the intelligence community. What they were concerned about was the tradecraft that was conducted by our intelligence community. And when we review the IC, we also believe that there were some mistakes made by the IC,” he responded.
“But let’s be very clear, just so everybody knows: Russia did meddle with our elections. Not only did Russia meddle in our elections, they’re doing it around the world. They did it to France. They did it to Moldova. They’re doing it to the Baltics. Russia is trying to undermine democracy itself, to delegitimize democracy so for some reason they can look good by comparison. Let’s just be really clear about that,” Ryan continued. “And the point we are making here is, we know they interfere with our elections and we have passed sanctions on Russia to hold them accountable.”
“And more importantly, what we intend to do is to make sure that they don’t get away with it again, and also to help our allies, to help those democracies, those new and older democracies in the world who are going to be facing this kind of Russia again — this Russia aggression again. We need to make sure that we can equip them with the tools they need to stop this from happening in their democracies.”
Ryan said “nothing has changed” in regard to his position on special counsel Robert Mueller.
“I’ve been clear from day one: He should be allowed to finish his investigation and carry out his work,” he said.