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Speaker Ryan: Voters Picked Trump, 'That's Not Something I Can Control'

In an interview with Chuck Todd, Speaker Paul Ryan seemed to give his fellow Republicans a Donald Trump off-ramp.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan sits down for a one on one interview with \"Meet the Press\" moderator Chuck Todd.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan sits down for a one on one interview with "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd at the Speaker?s Ceremonial Office at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Thursday, June 16, 2016 (NBCU Photo by William B. Plowman)William B. Plowman

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., is standing by Donald Trump, but he won’t force fellow Republicans to do the same.

In an exclusive interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Ryan said his duty as Speaker of the House is to keep the Republican Party united.

He explained, “Imagine the Speaker of the House not supporting the duly elected nominee of our party, therefore creating a chasm in our party that splits us in half?”

Ryan explicitly denied that he was choosing party over country.

However, his support for Trump doesn’t come without its caveats.“If something is done and said that I don't agree with, that I think puts a bad label on conservatism, then I'm going to speak out on it as I have, as I will continue to do, and I hope I don't have to keep doing,” Ryan said.

Ryan’s case for remaining behind Trump rests on Republican primary voters. “He won the election. The voters voted for him…That’s the choice they made.” He continued, “That’s not something I can control.”

The Wisconsin congressman also won’t try to control his fellow Republicans in Congress or pressure them into backing the presumptive nominee.

“The last thing I would do is tell anybody to do something that’s contrary to their conscience," he said. The Speaker continued, "I get that this is a very strange situation. This is a very unique nominee.”

What he says he can control, however, is making the campaign about ideas.

“I don’t worry every day about what Donald Trump says and does,” Ryan articulated. “I worry about what I can do to help make this a better country, to help improve things, to help make this campaign one more about substance, and ideas.”

Asked what Donald Trump could do to make the Speaker more comfortable supporting him, Ryan answered, “Run a campaign we can all be proud of. Run a campaign that’s inclusive and aspirational.”

But he hedged, “The question is whether he chooses to do so or not.”

All Eyes on Cleveland

Reports this week have unveiled a new effort to block Donald Trump from officially clinching the nomination in July, by “unbinding” the RNC delegates from supporting him. On Saturday, Trump called these efforts “illegal” and a “hoax”.

Ryan, for his part, wants to stay out of it.

While he remains Convention chairman, Ryan said, “It is not my job to tell delegates to do, what not to do, or to weigh in on things like that. They write the rules. They make their decisions.”

Pressed on whether he had an opinion on the matter, Ryan firmly replied, “My opinion is not relevant here.”

Gun Debate

In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, Ryan told Todd, “We’ve got to get it right” on the gun proposals that are scheduled to be debated in the Senate this week.

On the subject of denying gun sales to suspected terrorists, Ryan said “We can’t just be very clumsy and rush to judgment, and do something that actually harms our ability to do terrorist investigations.”

He was also clear that “you don’t want to deny a person the Constitutional rights without due process.”

Ryan seemed to hint that if the Senate sends a bill to the House it will be considered. “We’re going to take a deep breath, and make sure that this is done correctly, so that the policy of making sure the authorities know, and have time to respond if a person who is on a terrorist watch list is trying to buy a gun, that they're notified. That we want to make sure we get right,” he said.