House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, speaking in an interview broadcast Sunday, declined to wade into the nasty feud between President Trump and James B. Comey, the FBI director whom Trump fired last year and who is now promoting a book describing the experience.
Ryan (R-Wis.), who announced his retirement on Wednesday, has previously defended Comey from Trump’s attacks. In May, shortly after Comey’s dismissal, he rejected Trump’s description of Comey as a “nut job” and said “I like Comey” — though he also defended Trump’s decision to fire him.
But since then, the question of Comey’s credibility has become a more pressing matter in Washington as he has accused Trump of acting to obstruct the federal investigation into his campaign and business ties to Russia. Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty,” will be released Tuesday, and he is now amid a media blitz to promote it — including a Sunday prime-time interview on ABC.
“James Comey, a man of integrity?” Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” asked Ryan during the interview taped Friday.
“As far as I know,” Ryan replied. “I don’t know him very well.”
Asked if he was willing to take Comey at his word, Ryan declined to elaborate, saying that, “I’m not going to try and help sell some books here” and “I don’t know the guy.”
Todd also asked Ryan if he agreed with Trump’s description of Comey as a “slimeball.”
“I don’t speak like that,” he said, adding: “By the way, I wouldn’t do that because you’re going to help him sell books. So I’ve met him two or three times in two or three briefings. I don’t really know the guy. I’m not trying to be evasive. But what I don’t want to do is … join some food fight, some book-selling food fight. I don’t see any value in that.”
In a subsequent exchange, Ryan reiterated his view that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III ought to be left to complete his investigation into the Trump orbit. But Ryan again declined to endorse any legislation that would protect Mueller from being fired by Trump.
“I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said. “I don’t think he’s going to fire Mueller.”
Said Todd, “Insurance might not be necessary, but you buy it.”
“I don’t think they’re really contemplating this,” Ryan replied. “We’ve had plenty of conversations about this. It’s not in the president’s interest to do that. We have a rule-of-law system. No one is above that rule-of-law system. I don’t think he’s going to be fired. I don’t think he should be fired. And I think I just leave it at that.”