Trump ends standoff with Ryan, strains to fix split GOP
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Donald Trump endorsed House Speaker Paul Ryan late Friday, ending a four-day standoff between the GOP’s most powerful men that exposed deepening concerns about the New York billionaire’s presidential candidacy.
Ryan, like other top Wisconsin Republicans, did not attend Trump’s evening appearance in their state.
Having refused to endorse the speaker earlier in the week, Trump said, “We have to unite” as he vowed to support Ryan in next week’s primary contest.
It was a stunning reversal for Trump, a candidate who is known for his refusal to admit mistakes and whose general election campaign has been defined by his constant attacks on fellow Republicans. His timing was a bit curious, competing with the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Trump also threw his support behind Arizona Sen. John McCain and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, with whom he has sparred.
“We will have disagreements,” Trump said. “But we will disagree as friends and never stop working together toward victory.”
Ryan reiterated his support for Trump hours before the endorsement, but the Wisconsin Republican noted his support wasn’t a “blank check” and pledged to speak out against the businessman’s divisive positions if necessary.
Party divisions were easy to find Friday in Wisconsin, a state that Trump’s team insists he can win in November.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker skipped the evening rally, preferring to attend all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner instead of appearing with his party’s standard bearer. Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos offered a blunt message ahead of the presidential nominee’s arrival.
“Welcome to Wisconsin, Mr. Trump, but let’s get something straight,” Vos wrote in an open letter to his GOP colleagues. “We are Ryan Republicans here in Wisconsin, not Trump Republicans.”
The Midwest mayhem underscored Trump’s mounting challenges during one of the most tumultuous weeks of his unorthodox campaign. He has skipped from one misstep to the next, sparking a fresh wave of Republican defections among longtime party loyalists who refuse to support their presidential nominee — including some who even publicly support for Democrat Clinton.
Eager to change their minds, Trump unleashed a torrent of insults at Clinton.
“If Hillary Clinton becomes president,” he said at an earlier rally in Iowa, “you will have really, in my opinion, the destruction of this country from within.”
Trump called his Democratic opponent “a dangerous liar,” ”an unbalanced person,” ”pretty close to unhinged,” ”totally unfit to lead,” and lacking “the judgment, temperament and moral character to lead the country.”
In Wisconsin, Trump added, “She’s a monster.”
The charges came soon after Clinton addressed her own political vulnerabilities while facing a group of minority journalists in Washington.
The former secretary of state sought to “clarify and explain” a recent statement on “Fox News Sunday” that FBI Director James Comey said her answers to the bureau about her use of a private email server were “truthful.”
“I may have short circuited and for that I will try to clarify,” Clinton said, though still insisting she “never sent or received anything that was marked classified.”
She also acknowledged many people don’t trust her.
“It doesn’t make me feel good when people say those things, and I recognize that I have work to do,” Clinton said. She added, “I’m going to work my heart out in this campaign and as president to produce results for people.”
Yet Trump’s own gaffes have largely overshadowed Clinton’s problems as the Democrats work to recover from a bruising primary election season.
Complicating the Republican Party’s 2016 challenge are fresh signs the nation’s economy is strengthening under a Democratic president.
The Labor Department reported Friday that U.S. employers added a healthy 255,000 jobs in July, a sign of confidence that could point to a resilient economy.
Trump’s approach to national security came under fire Friday as well, with former CIA Director Michael Morell contending the Republican nominee would make “a poor, even dangerous commander in chief.”
Morell, outlining his views in The New York Times, also questioned Trump’s praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation,” wrote Morell.
Trump conceded Friday he was wrong to claim repeatedly in recent days that he saw a video of a U.S. cash payment going to Iran.
The New York billionaire has cited a $400 million payment the U.S. made to Iran this year, delivered on the same day that Iran released four American hostages. Trump charged on Thursday in vivid detail that the Iranian government released a video of the cash exchange to embarrass America.
“The plane I saw on television was the hostage plane in Geneva, Switzerland, not the plane carrying $400 million in cash going to Iran!” Trump tweeted Friday morning.
The White House has insisted the payment had nothing to do with the release of the hostages. Friday night, Trump called that explanation “a lie.”
In Iowa, he blamed the “dishonest” media for the fuss over an incident earlier in the week in which he asked a screaming baby to leave a rally.
“I don’t throw babies out,” Trump said. “I love babies.”
Peoples reported in Washington. AP writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, Kyle Potter in St. Paul, Minnesota, Catherine Lucey in Des Moines, Iowa, and Lisa Lerer and Erica Werner in Washington contributed to this report.
By Steve Peoples And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press