Less than a week after House Speaker Paul Ryan went after Republican front-runner Donald Trump for failing to disavow David Duke and the KKK, the former vice presidential nominee has spoken over the phone with the controversial candidate about developing a Republican agenda.
And in addition to Trump, Ryan, R-Wis., has also spoken to Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, "to explain House Republicans’ plan to present a bold conservative policy agenda this year," the speaker's press secretary, AshLee Strong, told NBC News Monday.
Speaker Ryan also plans to have similar calls with Republican presidential candidates Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich, she said.
The push to develop an agenda that the eventual Republican nominee can embrace has been a focus of Ryan's short tenure as speaker.
Ryan, who ran as Mitt Romney’s running-mate in 2012, was elected to the Speakership after conservative House Republicans ousted House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, from the job in September of 2015.
"I am going to brief all of our presidential candidates on our agenda project," Ryan told reporters last week, "The goal here is to have an election like we had in 1980, where we unite around bold ideas and we earn a mandate from the country so that we can get the country back on track. With that, I'd be happy to answer your questions."
But Ryan has at-times been publicly critical of Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric, going after Trump for his proposal to ban Muslim immigrants, and more recently speaking out against Trump’s failure to immediately disavow David Duke and the KKK.
"If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games: They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry,” Ryan told reporters last week, "This party does not prey on people’s prejudices — we appeal to their highest ideals. This is the party of Lincoln."
Asked about the criticism the next day, Trump responded, saying, “I don’t know him well, but I’m sure I’m going to get along great with him and if I don’t, he’s going to have to pay a big price, OK?”
Ryan said he watched Trump’s comments live, admitting that he had "laughed out loud" at the response.
"You know, sometimes reality is stranger than fiction around here these days. I don't really think anything of it," Ryan said.
Ryan himself has garnered attention as the person who could possibly unite the party if the Republican nomination fight ends with a contested convention in July — with a Super PAC named "Committee To Draft Speaker Ryan" attempting to gather one million signatures to "demonstrate to him that he would have the strong backing of the American people."
Ryan quickly disavowed the effort in a formal letter from his attorney to the Federal Election Commission, saying, "The speaker has not, and does not, explicitly or implicitly, authorize, endorse, or otherwise approve of the organization's formation or activities."
"It is the speaker's sincere hope that donors and supporters are not confused by, or misled into supporting, this organization," the letter to the FEC read.