Paul Ryan Adviser's "Devious Thug" Comment Latest Example Of Rift In GOP's Russia Strategy

Posted: Jul 28, 2016 4:00 PM

Following the fall-out from the Democratic National Committee email leak, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump split with Republicans this week with his suggestion that Russia should hack Hillary Clinton’s server, with both parties quickly condemning what they considered irrational comments.

At a news conference in Florida on Wednesday, Trump suggested the Kremlin was “probably not” behind the DNC hack, but in the same breath he expressed a desire for Russia to release deleted emails from Clinton’s unsecured State Department email server.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said. He has since clarified that his comments were "sarcastic."

Amidst the din of politicians decrying Trump’s statements, what House Speaker Paul Ryan’s communications adviser told The Guardian is perhaps the best representation of the disconnect in the Republicans' foreign policy stance during this election.

“Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug,” Ryan’s adviser, Brendan Buck, said. “Putin should stay out of this election.”

After making headlines for not endorsing Trump outright in early May (he said he was “just not ready to do that at this point”), Ryan has since supported the nominee cautiously. He spoke at the RNC but recently criticized some of the campaign’s foreign policy positions, reinforcing the notion the GOP is splintered under Trump’s inflammatory leadership.

The Associated Press reported on a July 26 luncheon where Ryan distanced himself from Trump’s comments about trade:

“In another break from Trump, Ryan spoke of the need for the U.S. to be a leader in crafting free trade agreements. Trump has made his opposition to trade agreements the centerpiece of his economic argument. Trump wants to revoke the North American Free Trade Agreement and do away with the Obama administration-negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership.”

At the luncheon, Ryan offered a strong defense of NATO in response to Trump’s comments in The New York Times about possibly backing out of the alliance if other countries didn’t contribute their fair share.

Trump had said, “You always have to be prepared to walk. It doesn’t mean I want to walk. And I would prefer not to walk. You have to be prepared and our country cannot afford to do what we’re doing.”

Ryan countered on Tuesday that NATO is an “indispensable ally” and said the agreement is “as important now as I would say it’s been in my lifetime.”

The possibility of a Trump-Vladimir Putin friendship has alarmed some Republicans. Trump has flip-flopped on his impression of Putin throughout the campaign, but many have said he has not been critical enough of the Russian president.

“I never met Putin. I don’t know who Putin is,” Trump said at the Florida news conference. In an interview recorded the same day, he called Putin “a better leader than Obama.”