Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says he’s willing to relinquish his duties as chairman of the Republican National Convention in July if Donald Trump requests it.
“He’s the nominee. I’ll do whatever he wants with respect to the convention,” Ryan said during an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday.
The willingness to hand over the convention position comes ahead of Ryan’s Capitol Hill meeting this Thursday with Trump and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
Ryan last week said that he’s not ready to support Trump, a break from other top GOP leaders like Priebus and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
For months, Ryan stayed publicly neutral in the GOP primary race, citing his role as chairman of the convention.
Ryan has said that he didn’t learn that he’d be serving as chairman of the convention until after he became Speaker last fall.
Trump dodged a question during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday about whether Ryan should still serve as convention chairman.
“I don’t want to mention now. I’ll see after. I will give you a very solid answer, if that happens, about one minute after that happens. Okay? But there’s no reason to give it right now. But I’ll be very quick with the answer. Let’s see what happens,” Trump said.
Trump said he has a “nice relationship” with Ryan, but noted that he’s “not exactly sure what he has in mind.”
Ryan during the Monday interview also dismissed a suggestion from Trump supporter Sarah Palin over the weekend that he is trying to divide the GOP against this year’s presumptive nominee to boost his own 2020 presidential prospects.
“I would not have become speaker of the House if I had 2020 aspirations. If I really wanted to run for president, I could have run in 2012 and 2016. The speaker is not exactly a good stepping stone for president. I think people who know me know that is not my aspiration,” Ryan said.
Palin, the 2008 vice presidential nominee, added that she will try to help Ryan’s long-shot primary challenger, Paul Nehlen.
Trump appeared to distance himself on Monday from Palin’s support for Ryan’s primary challenger.
“I have nothing to do with that. Sarah is very much a free agent,” Trump said on CNN’s “New Day.”
Ryan on Monday also ruled out supporting a third-party candidate, even if it’s Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee who tapped Ryan for his running mate. He called the idea “a disaster for our party.”
Ryan also told the Milwaukee newspaper that he’s hoping Trump will work toward unifying Republicans.
“Let me say this, the man deserves a ton of credit for an amazing achievement, which is to bring millions of people into this party and to have a very impressive victory … At the same time we want to make sure we don’t pretend we’re unified and then go into the fall at half strength,” Ryan said.
Yet Trump downplayed the need for party unity in order to win the general election in November.
“I think it would be better if it were unified, I think it would be – there would be something good about it,” Trump said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” that aired Sunday. “But I don’t think it actually has to be unified in the traditional sense.”