Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus said Friday that House Speaker Paul Ryan is still prepared to "work through" his reservations about supporting Donald Trump, leaving the door open to an eventual endorsement by the former vice presidential pick.
“He wants to get there," Priebus said at a breakfast sponsored by POLITICO Playbook in Washington D.C.
Priebus said he spoke with Ryan “multiple times” on Thursday after Ryan announced that he was "not ready" to publicly back Trump.
“Paul’s just being honest with how he feels," Priebus said, adding that Ryan "just wants some time to just work through it."
The GOP party head does still expect Ryan to attend a scheduled meeting with Trump and Republican leadership on Capitol Hill next week: “He wants it to go forward.”
How did the presumptive nominee react to Ryan withholding his support? Priebus said Trump “wasn’t furious” but rather focused on what he needed to do next. Priebus’s advice to Trump was to “just relax and be gracious.”
The GOP chief says that’s how Trump behaves behind the scenes.
Priebus calls Trump “far more gracious and personable than I think you see at rallies.”
“I think he gets it. I think you’re gonna see it. I think you’re gonna see the change in tone,” he added.
Trump is working on shifting his demeanor to “general election mode,” according to Priebus. “What you saw on Tuesday night is going to be more of what you see in the future.”
However, Priebus cautioned, “I’m sure it’s going to take some time.”
Asked about Donald Trump’s Cinco de Mayo tweet, which linked his "love" of Hispanics with a photo of Trump eating a taco bowl, Priebus paused.
“Uh, he’s trying," he said.
The Republican committee chairman also reacted to Trump’s recent comments that beating Hillary Clinton is “going to be easy.”
“I didn’t know he said that,” Priebus said to laughter. But he assured the room that Trump has “certainly defied the odds.” Beating Clinton will be a “difficult task, but I think we’re up to it,” he continued.
Priebus also called Trump’s labeling of Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” effective, because “I think she does have a history of being crooked. I think she’s got a lot to answer for.”
He later added, “I don’t think that Donald Trump’s going to have a hard time bringing out some of the things that are going to be very not good for Hillary Clinton.”
Priebus also shot down a New York Times report that RNC staffers were told that if they couldn’t support Trump, “they should leave by the end of the week.”
Asked if there was anyone at the RNC who has left because they can’t work for this nominee, Priebus replied “Not that I know of.” Does he expect anyone to leave for that reason? “I doubt it.”