Nothing will keep Speaker Paul Ryan from talking about tax policy, not even the indictment of President Trump's former campaign chairman.
Ryan called in Monday for a scheduled interview with Jerry Bader of WTAQ in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The pre-arranged topic — the only topic, really, that Ryan seems to want to talk about, no matter the chaotic churn of Donald Trump’s Washington — was tax reform.
Bader opened up the segment with a question about the big news of the day: indictments against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates. It also was revealed Monday that George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, has admitted to lying to the FBI in its investigation of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.
“I really don’t have anything to add other than nothing is going to derail what we’re doing in Congress,” Ryan told Bader. The interview then switched to tax reform and other policy issues.
Ryan has spent much of the last two years insisting that the agenda — from the "A Better Way" platform he repeatedly pushed last year — is the most important thing and no news will distract from it. His effort to sell changes to tax policy began in May under similarly distracting circumstances. The day before Ryan’s kickoff tour, a carefully choreographed factory visit with local lawmakers and a business roundtable discussion in Ohio, Trump fired FBI director James Comey.
“The people in the press, they’re here because they want to listen to me talk about tax reform,” Ryan joked that day — an aw-shucks mix of defiance and self-deprecation. “So I want to tell my friends in the press: I’ll be making statements later about the questions that they all have.”
He saved his statement for an appearance that evening on Fox News.
Ryan’s efforts to deflect and stay on message have become a bit of a running joke.
As of noon Monday, there had been no official statement from Ryan or from his office beyond his non-answer answer on home-state radio. On Twitter, in response to a question about Ryan’s quick and dismissive response, Ryan press secretary AshLee Strong replied: “It's an ongoing investigation and we need to let the professionals at DOJ continue to do their job.”
And the speaker’s Twitter account had issued only two tweets as of noon — one of them a retweet of the House Ways and Means Committee’s post on tax reform.