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Paul Ryan Says He Will Not Run For Re-Election


The Republican Party is dealing with a scramble for leadership now, and it's a pretty crucial time for the party. House Speaker Paul Ryan announced yesterday that he is not going to seek re-election, ending a three-year run as the Republican leader.


PAUL RYAN: I will be retiring in January, leaving this majority in good hands with what I believe is a very bright future.

GREENE: Now, last night, Paul Ryan and fellow Republican leaders met with President Trump at the White House. And the president tweeted out this photo of the group. They were all smiling big smiles, giving thumbs up. The message from the president - "lots to discuss as we continue making America great again," end quote. Let's go to NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hi, Mara.


GREENE: All right. So the image from the White House that the president wanted to send is that everything is great with the party. The party is in good hands. But, I mean, this is - could be a difficult midterm election season for the GOP. And is Ryan's departure going to make that even harder?

LIASSON: I think so. I think Ryan's departure might lead to more retirements among Republicans. It also will be taken as a big sign of no confidence in Republicans' ability to hold the House after November, raises the question about whether Ryan can still raise a lot of money from Republican donors. He's raised $54 million in the last year and a half. And although he said yesterday that his retirement won't make any difference in whether someone votes for a Republican candidate or not, it also raises the question about how effective he can be in helping Republicans keep the House.

GREENE: Even if he's out there raising money too, you're no longer raising money as the person who's going to lead the party for much longer.

LIASSON: Right. You're a lame duck.

GREENE: Yeah. Well, you mentioned more retirements. I mean, there have been a lot of retirements already announced by Republicans. I mean, these numbers are not normal, are they?

LIASSON: No, these numbers are not normal. I think we're up to 46 Republican retirements. Some of them are committee chairmen who are term limited and they do come from safe seats, but they're deciding not to come back to Congress as a mere rank-and-file member. But there are plenty of Republicans who are worried about losing in November. And I think the bottom line is all these retirements are a big morale booster for Democrats.

GREENE: Is it too early to start thinking about who might replace Ryan next year? And I guess one question I have is, is - with Ryan leaving, is this very much now President Trump's party? Will you see a leadership that more reflects his priorities?

LIASSON: Well, I think it is President Trump's party. I think the leadership will reflect his priorities. I think it will either be Steve Scalise or Kevin McCarthy, the No. 1, 2 and 3 in the leadership now. But in terms of the president's priorities, don't forget there's no more big legislative initiatives on board for the rest of the year. And depending on what happens in November, they might not be in the majority and have an ability to enact those priorities.

GREENE: You know, we've been talking a lot yesterday about the president's tweets about Syria and Russia, taunting Russia about what Russia might do if the U.S. ends up carrying out a military attack this morning. Looks like the president's tweeting about Robert Mueller, the special counsel.

LIASSON: That's right. He's up. He's reading the newspaper. He didn't like what he read. He said, if I wanted to fire Robert Mueller in December, as reported by the failing New York Times, I would have fired him - just more fake news from a biased newspaper. So lots and lots of people who've been talking to the president have been saying he's more angry about the Mueller investigation than he has ever been, talking more about doing something to shut it down. Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, very significantly did not say that he wasn't planning to fire Bob Mueller when she was asked these questions. She merely said he has the legal authority to do so. The fact that she left off those qualifiers suggested that maybe some action was imminent. I don't think this tweet clarifies matters.

GREENE: Yeah. If I wanted to fire Robert Mueller in December, I would have fired him. That doesn't say much in terms of what his plans are at this point with Robert Mueller. So it looks like the big question is just going to remain unanswered.

LIASSON: That's right.

GREENE: All right. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson speaking to us this morning. Mara, thanks as always. We appreciate it.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.