Apparently not content with facing off against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump invited open warfare with his own party Tuesday, saying he was not yet ready to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan or Sen. John McCain in their 2016 re-election bids.
A day after he tweeted praise for Paul Nehlen, who is challenging Ryan in his Wisconsin district’s primary next week, Trump went further in an interview with The Washington Post.
“I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country,” Trump said. “We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.”
Trump’s comments mirrored Ryan’s own public hand-wringing in the days before he reluctantly endorsed Trump, who by that time had clinched the party’s nomination.
In the interview, Trump also targeted other sitting Republicans who have been critical of him, whether explicitly or through condemnation of his recent public statements or policy views.
McCain, the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, faces a Republican primary for re-election later this month. He issued a lengthy statement Monday saying Trump’s criticisms of Khizr and Ghazala Khan, parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq, “do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.” The couple appeared at the Democratic National Convention, where Khizr Khan spoke emotionally against Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the country.
Though McCain said he still supported Trump, he said the fact that the businessman was the nominee is “not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.”
Trump turned the tables Tuesday.
“I’ve never been there with John McCain because I’ve always felt that he should have done a much better job for the vets,” Trump said. “He has not done a good job for the vets and I’ve always felt he should have done a much better job for the vets. So I’ve always had a difficult time with John for that reason, because our vets are not being treated properly. They’re not being treated fairly.”
The interview was posted online just hours after President Barack Obama called on Republican leaders to make a clearer break from Trump, whom he called unfit to serve as president.
“I don’t doubt that they were outraged about some of the statements that Mr. Trump and his supporters made about the Khan family,” Obama said at a news conference. “But there has to come a point at which you say somebody who makes those kinds of statements doesn’t have the judgment, the temperament, the understanding to occupy the most powerful position in the world.”