House Speaker Paul Ryan, the most powerful elected Republican in the federal government, told Republican lawmakers during a conference call Monday morning that he will stop campaigning for Trump and instead focus on trying to maintain the GOP majority in Congress, urging them to do the same, the New York Times and others report.
Ryan reportedly said that he "won't defend" Trump any longer following the candidate's latest scandal, this one centered on Trump bragging in 2005 about using his star power to harass women. He didn't rescind his endorsement of the Republican presidential nominee, however, demonstrating the narrow line he has to walk. Trump is unpopular among many Republicans and could drag candidates associated with him down, but he also has a passionate fan base that can't be ignored.
"You all need to do what's best for you in your district," Ryan told Republican House members on the call.
Ryan's spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, reiterated that he will be turning his focus entirely to the congressional elections and giving up on Trump's campaign, but made clear that Ryan still supports the GOP nominee for president. "There is no update in his position at this time," Strong said.