House Speaker Paul Ryan said Monday he believed President Donald Trump “messed up” in his response to the recent racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, when he equated neo-Nazis and white supremacists with counterprotesters.
“I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday when it sounded like moral equivocation or at the very least moral ambiquity when we need extreme moral clarity,” Ryan told CNN’s Jake Tapper at a town hall in Racine, Wisconsin, referencing a news conference Trump had last week.
When asked by an audience member whether he would back censuring Trump, Ryan said he would not back such a measure, adding that the issue cannot devolve into a partisan fight.
Ryan, however, did praise the President’s plans on Afghanistan and said he was especially happy with how Trump came to his decision.
“I’m pleased with the decision,” Ryan said. “We cannot allow another safe haven for terrorists to materialize again.”
Ryan said that he believed he’d heard a new “doctrine” Monday night from Trump.
The Wisconsin Republican will answer audience questions in the town hall hosted by CNN, minutes after Trump explained his Afghanistan strategy.
This will be the first town hall meeting Ryan has held in his home district in nearly two years, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, a point his critics have use to hammer the Wisconsin Republican.
In response to questions about when his last town hall was in his district, a spokesperson emphasized Ryan’s other outreach to constituents including a CNN town hall that Ryan held in Washington earlier this year, as well as business town halls and telephone town halls.
The town hall Monday night is a chance for a wider swath of constituents in the district to participate and ask their congressman questions about the future of the Republican party, health care, tax reform and the state of race relations in the country in the wake of tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia.
After Trump’s comments last week equating neo-Nazis and counterprotesters who demonstrated against them, Ryan said in a lengthy statement Monday morning that he was prepared to address the events in Charlottesville during Monday evening’s town hall.
“There is no moral relativism when it comes to neo-Nazis,” Ryan said in his Monday statement on Facebook. “We cannot allow the slightest ambiguity on such a fundamental question.”
Charlottesville, however, is only expected to be one of many topics Ryan addresses Monday night.
Ryan will have his hands full when he returns to the Capitol in September. While House Republicans managed to pass legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, their Senate counterparts did not, casting doubt on how effective the GOP is at legislating now that they have control of all three branches of government.
House Republicans have yet to pass a budget due to infighting within their conference. And when they return, Republicans will also have to move to fund the government and raise the country’s debt ceiling. That’s just the beginning. Ryan and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, a Republican from Texas, have outlined an aggressive plan to pursue tax reform when House Republicans return to Washington in the fall.