During Rare District Stop, House Speaker Ryan Defends Comey Firing and Existing Probes

May 11, 2017

While the House  is on break - and while reaction continues to be intense, Speaker Paul Ryan answered questions on Thursday about President Trump's decision this week to fire FBI Director James Comey, while protesters also made their presence known.

Ryan came to Racine, to celebrate a company’s plans to expand. InSinkErator manufactures garbage disposals and hot water dispensers.

Reporters wanted to ask Ryan about President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey – who was investigating possible connections between Trump campaign aides and Russia. Ryan says the President considered widespread criticism of Comey, in making the decision.

“I think he had lost confidence among Republicans and Democrats and senior leadership in the Justice Department and so, I think the president looked at the situation and made a decision that a president can make, which was to remove the FBI Director. It’s within his rights and prerogatives as president,” Ryan says.

Ryan says he does not think the government should launch an independent investigation into Russia’s possible ties to the Trump campaign. According to Ryan, there are already three probes underway – one in the FBI, and two others, by intelligence committees in Congress. Ryan says, that’s where the investigations should remain.

“The reason why I think the Intelligence committees should be doing this, is because this involves intelligence collection. This involves the methods and sources of our intelligence, which is deeply classified and very important for American national security, and that is why the intelligence committees that are steeped in this process are the right place to do the investigations,” Ryan says.

Protesters carried signs outside Ryan's appearance at the InSinkErator plant
Credit Marti Mikkelson

Outside the plant, about 20 people protested Ryan’s visit. Some carried signs that read “Stop the Speaker” and “Investigate Trump.” John Polodna of Racine insists an independent investigation is crucial.

“The big issue now is Russia intruding into our election and whether there is collusion with the Trump campaign. I think that’s front and center for everybody right now,” Polodna says.

Polodna says he would like to see Ryan hold a town hall meeting in his district. Judith Lindquist agrees. She drove down from Milwaukee and says she would like Ryan to address a couple issues weighing on her mind, especially the GOP plan to replace President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

“Basically if he’s elected by the people, he needs to be listening and meeting with people, to find out what their views are and how this current health plan is going to affect individuals and families,” Lindquist says.

House Speaker Ryan did not indicate whether he might hold a public meeting.

Reporters asked him one last question – whether he thinks Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is on President Trump’s “short list” of candidates to replace Comey. Ryan chuckled, saying he has “no clue” who’s being considered for the position.