Already tense relations between the Republican Party and their presidential candidate Donald Trump were put to the test after Trump refused to endorse Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) or Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) ahead of their state primaries.
Following Trump’s declaration of non-endorsement, Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus, a close friend of the Speaker, called the candidate to express frustration on Tuesday, according to a report by ABC.
“I like Paul,” Trump told the Washington Post on Aug. 2. “But these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there. I’m not quite there yet.”
Trump’s comments echo those of Ryan who said in May this year that he was “just not ready” and not “there right now” when asked whether he would endorse the candidate.
However, Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, did come out to endorse Ryan a day after Trump’s comments.
“[Trump] strongly encouraged me to endorse Paul Ryan in next Tuesday’s primary and I’m pleased to do it,” he told Fox News.
While Ryan did endorse Trump on June 2, he has on several occasions been a vocal critic of the candidate’s comments. Earlier this week he countered Trump’s comments about the parents of an Army Captain killed in Iraq in 2004. Trump had questioned why Ghazala Khan, the wife of Khizr Khan, did not speak on stage at the DNC convention in Philadelphia as she stood next to her husband while he criticized Trump saying he’d sacrificed “nothing and no one” for his country, and questioned his knowledge of the constitution.
In a statement released on Sunday, Ryan said, “Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military and made the ultimate sacrifice … Capt. Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice—and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan—should always be honored. Period.”
Besides not endorsing Ryan, Trump also made a nod to Ryan’s opponent in the Wisconsin Republican Primary, Paul Nehlen, after he backed Trump in his feud with the Kahn family.
“Thanks to [Paul Nehlen] for your kind words, very much appreciated,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
Thanks to @pnehlen for your kind words, very much appreciated.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2016
Nehlen, who’s running to the right of Ryan on trade and immigration, has painted the Speaker as part of the Washington Elite.
Trump also refused to endorse Senator John McCain who’s in a tighter race than Ryan for his senate seat in Arizona. Like Ryan, McCain endorsed Trump, but has also given a strong rebuke of the candidate’s comments about the Khan family.
“I’ve never been there with John McCain,” Trump told the Washington Post, “because I’ve always felt that he should’ve done a much better job for the vets,” he said of the Arizona Senator, who is a well-known veteran of the Vietnam War.
Trump has had a contentious relationship with McCain, saying last year that he didn’t consider the Senator, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for over five years, to be a war hero because he likes “people who weren’t captured.”