Donald Trump will not endorse Paul Ryan as Republican splits widen

Republican nominee also refuses to back John McCain, despite being endorsed for presidency by both men

The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has declined to endorse the re-election campaign of the House speaker, Paul Ryan, the highest-ranking member of his party in Washington, as divisions intensified in the GOP.

“I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country,” Trump said in an interview with the Washington Post, a publication that is still banned from Trump’s campaign events.

“We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.”

His wording was presumably a reference to Ryan’s comments in May, when the House speaker was asked if he was backing Trump: “I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now.”

Trump also refused to back Senator John McCain, the party’s 2008 nominee, in his bid for re-election in addition to Ryan, the most powerful elected Republican in the country.

Both Ryan and McCain are longtime critics of many of Trump’s remarks, but both have said they would support the Republican nominee in the general election. Ryan, in particular, needed coaxing to eventually support Trump, citing his concerns about the candidate’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the US. Eventually Ryan not only endorsed Trump but presided over his nomination at the Republican national convention in Cleveland.

Ryan’s campaign responded through a spokesman, Zack Roday, who said: “Neither Speaker Ryan nor anyone on his team has ever asked for Donald Trump’s endorsement. And we are confident in a victory next week regardless.”

The pair of senior Republicans have been critical of Trump in recent months following a string of increasingly racially and religiously charged statements. In June, Ryan described Trump’s attacks on a federal judge, Gustavo Curiel, as “the textbook definition of a racist comment”, and McCain issued a strong rebuke of Trump’s remarks about the Muslim family of a dead army captain on Monday.

“I cannot emphasize how deeply I disagree with Mr Trump’s statement,” McCain said in a statement, referring to Trump’s claim that the Khans had “no right” to criticize him and were motivated by opposition to the ban. “I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican party, its officers or candidates.”

Father of Muslim American soldier: ‘Donald Trump, you have sacrificed nothing’

Ryan also criticized Trump for his comments, saying: “Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice.”

“Captain Khan was one such brave example,” he added. “His sacrifice – and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan – should always be honored. Period.”

Even Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor and a Trump ally, broke rank to tell reporters that Trump’s remarks on the the Khans were inappropriate, and that the family had the right to say “whatever they want” after losing their son.

Christie told a press conference: “I didn’t see Mr Khan’s speech at the DNC but I’ll just say this: I’m a father and I just cannot imagine the pain of losing a child under any circumstances. For Mr and Mrs Khan, the pain of losing their son while defending our country is unfathomable, and I think it gives them the right to say whatever they want, whether they’re right or wrong.”

Chris Christie: Trump criticism of Khan family ‘inappropriate’

Two weeks after a party convention that attempted to focus on party unity, new rifts are appearing between Republicans and their candidate.

On Tuesday, the retiring New York representative Richard Hanna became the first Republican member of Congress to say he would vote for Hillary Clinton in November, saying of Trump: “He is unfit to serve our party and cannot lead this country.”

Later the same day, the Hewlett-Packard executive Meg Whitman, a prominent Republican fundraiser, also threw her support behind Clinton. “Donald Trump’s demagoguery has undermined the fabric of our national character,” she said.

They join dozens of high-profile GOP leaders who have previously said they would not vote for Trump, including the party’s 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, and the former Florida governor Jeb Bush. With the Khan row ongoing the New York Times reported that mass defections by Republican politicians were now a possibility.

Obama unleashes blistering attack on Trump

In his harshest comments about Trump yet, Barack Obama on Tuesday described him as “unfit” and “woefully unprepared” to be president, urging Republican party leaders to take the unprecedented step of denouncing their nominee.

Away from the frontline of politics, veterans and the families of soldiers killed in war continue to call on Trump to apologize for his treatment of the Khan family.

Dakota Meyer, one of a handful of living Medal of Honor recipients and the former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s son-in-law, wrote Tuesday on Twitter:

If @realDonaldTrump wants to be the Commander in Chief, he needs to act like one. And that cant start until he apologizes to the Khans.

— Dakota Meyer (@Dakota_Meyer) August 2, 2016

Trump’s refusal to support McCain and Ryan comes exactly one week before Ryan faces a primary challenge from the businessman Paul Nehlen, a candidate who has sought to emulate Trump’s rhetoric and policies. Nehlen has branded Ryan “a soulless globalist” and attacked him as the candidate of open borders.

On Tuesday, Trump praised Nehlen for running “a very good campaign”.

McCain is also facing a primary challenge at the end of August from Kelli Ward, a former Arizona state senator who has accused the 2008 Republican nominee of being “directly responsible for Isis”. If the five-term senator manages to fend off the primary challenge, he still faces a competitive general election against the Democratic representative Ann Kirkpatrick, in what McCain has described as “the race of my life”.

Although Arizona was once solidly Republican, the heavily Latino state is now considered an electoral toss-up because of Trump’s unpredictable effect on candidates whose names follow his own on the ballot. For over a year, McCain has also called on Trump to apologize for saying he prefers “people who weren’t captured” to prisoners of war, like the senator was himself in Vietnam. Trump has not apologized.

Donald Trump insists campaign is united despite reports of Republican party split


Ben Jacobs in Washington and Damien Gayle in London

The GuardianTramp

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