Paul Ryan Defends Trump - sort of

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Paul Ryan

On this morning's NBC NEWS' Meet The Press with Chuck Todd Paul Ryan defended the position of the president on many issues, with just enough pull-back to make himself sound sane. It is interesting to watch the line that Republicans are treading at the moment as they need to defend the antics of the increasingly erratic president while remaining loyal to their party and still looking like they are the adults in the room. He starts by back-tracking on the Iran sanctions

CHUCK TODD:

Speaker Ryan, welcome back to Meet The Press.

PAUL RYAN:

Thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's start with news of the-- of Friday. Iran sanctions, new executive order signed. There is wide support in Congress for more sanctions on Iran—

PAUL RYAN:

That's right.

CHUCK TODD:

That is clear. Let me ask you this, though. Would you like to see the beginnings of trying to get out of the nuclear deal?

PAUL RYAN:

Well, a lot of that toothpaste is already out of the tube. I never supported the deal in the first place. I thought it was a huge mistake. But the multilateral sanctions are done. So—

CHUCK TODD:

Done meaning you're not going to be able to put that back together--

PAUL RYAN:

Yeah, I don't think you're going to go back and reconstitute the multilateral sanctions that were in place.

CHUCK TODD:

Should we try, though?

RYAN:

So, I don’t think we-- I think we should expend our effort where it can pay off the most. And that's why I think what they're doing now does make a lot of sense. So I think the key is to rigorously enforce this deal. But also, remember, they're testing ballistic missiles. They're still the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Human rights abuses galore.

And so those are where I think we also need to ratchet up sanctions. I think what this administration is doing, which I agree with, is saying, "We have a new administration, and we're going to hold you, Iran, to account." This last administration did not do that. This new administration needs to do that. And I think that's what you're getting here.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there-- Where is the line here? Are you concerned that Iran might retaliate, and suddenly we're a part of the proxy war in Yemen? I mean--

PAUL RYAN:

But look what they were doing, we're appeasing them already. So it couldn't get worse--

... On ISIS and the recent executive order perhaps causing more recruitment

CHUCK TODD:

You were talking about this issue, concern about ISIS having, you know, perceived power or perceived strength. Even maybe if they don't, but they like to-- their propaganda. The executive order.

                                                                      

PAUL RYAN:

I knew that's where you were going.

                                                                      

CHUCK TODD:

I know. I know. The infamous executive order. There's been a lot of concern, whether it's John McCain or Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse, this is not just one party of concern. That even if the objective of the order was something people agreed with, how they went about it handed a propaganda tool to ISIS. So--

 

PAUL RYAN:

Yeah.

 

CHUCK TODD:

--is that a fair critique?

 

PAUL RYAN:

It's a fair critique. If this were a Muslim ban, I would be opposing it. It's not a Muslim ban. It's not a religious test. And so I think the rollout clearly could have been done better. The communication could have been done more clearly. I think they've now put in better processes to make sure that on a go-forward basis, it's improved. I think General Kelly is putting this in a good place. But let's back up for a second--

                                                                      

CHUCK TODD:

Why is this good policy, though? If it doesn't include, yeah, why is this good policy?

 

PAUL RYAN:

I'm glad you asked that question. Let's go back to Paris, and the terrorist attack in Paris. We, Congress, quickly got briefings on what just happened in Paris. And we learned that terrorists infiltrated the refugee population from Syria going into Europe. And we wanted to make sure that a terrorist-like attack could not happen here. We still have credible evidence that ISIS is trying to infiltrate refugee populations. So back at that time, we said to Homeland Security and the F.B.I., "Can you vet these refugees fully and convincingly, so that you can make sure you can justify the veracity of a person's claim coming over here?" And they said, "We couldn't." So we then said, "We need to have a pause in these programs so that we can have the right vetting standards in place to guarantee we don't have a Paris-like attack." We passed that bill with 289 votes. Huge bipartisan vote count. Harry Reid filibustered it in the Senate. At that time, candidate Trump said, "I'm going to do this, you know, if I become president." He's simply following up on his word. Now, that's a long stretch from what rolled out, I think, in perception. Nobody wanted green card holders to get mixed up in this, or people with special immigration visas, people in transit. So I do think there was a problem with the rollout. But the content of this is exactly what we've been talking about. Now, let me just say one more thing. The rhetoric surrounding this is overblown. And that rhetoric claiming that this could be some kind of a Muslim ban hurts us and helps them with recruiting. So I think we should call these things for what they are, and not have overblown rhetoric, which I think is counterproductive.

 

CHUCK TODD:

Let's look at it from the other side, though. Is-- What we talked about-- What you were talking about in France. Some of these are French citizens. I mean-- The biggest terrorist threats that we've had here came from Saudi Arabia, or they came from Pakistan--

 

PAUL RYAN:

One of our-- The hardest one--

CHUCK TODD:

--or, of course, the fact the visa waiver program that we have with the E.U. So the point is, this-- If the objective of this order was to keep the country safer, history, recent history shows we targeted the wrong countries.

                                                                      

PAUL RYAN:

The hardest thing to guard against is home-grown terrorism, are people who self-radicalize on the Internet, that’s obvious, like Fort Hood and the rest. Those are very difficult. But surely, a country can honor its own sovereignty by making sure that they have the right vetting standards in place from terrorist hot spots that we know people are trying to come here to do us harm. Surely we can put in place--

 

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. Is Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, aren't places that belong on that list?

 

PAUL RYAN:

These seven countries were selected by the Obama administration because of their unique problems with respect to people coming over.

 

CHUCK TODD:

Well, but forget whether-- who it was selected by. How does Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt, all of whom have had foreign nationals come into this country and kill Americans—

 

PAUL RYAN:

So you're suggesting we should do all Muslim countries? Is that what you're saying, Chuck?

 

CHUCK TODD:

No, my question is does this actually achieve the objective?

 

PAUL RYAN:

Well, let's find out what General Kelly comes up with. 'Cause he's in the middle of his review to put in place vetting standards.