If I’ve learned one thing in my time covering politics, it’s that if something major happens that makes no sense to anyone involved, it always ends up being important later. It means someone else knows something that we don’t, and someone is taking actions based on that information. It always comes out in the wash in the end. Now it’s becoming fairly clear why Paul Ryan suddenly began talking about quitting Congress, even as he was still trying to get his tax scam bill over the hump.
Sure, the Republicans are on track to get wiped out in the 2018 midterms. Accordingly, Paul Ryan is on track to lose his role as Speaker of the House. So maybe that’s enough for him to think about walking away. But it never made a lick of sense that he began publicly floating the idea of retiring at the end of his term, or even quitting before his current terms is up, even as he was engaging in the legislative fight of his life. Something else unrelated had to have transpired behind the scenes which prompted Ryan to conclude that he had to begin immediately laying the groundwork for his possible departure. Sure enough, yesterday we got that answer.
Yahoo News is reporting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has spent the past few weeks interviewing Republican National Committee staffers about their role in coordinating a disinformation effort with the Donald Trump campaign and Russia (link). As the Speaker of the House, and thus one of the most powerful people in the Republican Party, it’s all but impossible to imagine that Ryan didn’t know what his RNC staffers were doing at the time.
Now we can see that the timeline matches up. Paul Ryan began floating the idea of quitting Congress just as Robert Mueller began investigating the Republican National Committee for its role in the Trump-Russia campaign. Even if Ryan wasn’t an active co-conspirator, he had to have known – and that alone will be enough to sink him politically once it comes out. It’s why he publicly planted the notion that he might retire to spend time with his family anyway. He wanted to lay that groundwork in case he needs to suddenly resign before the ugly news breaks about him.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report