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Republican leader won’t support Trump

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On the Project, Waleed speaks about how Donald Trump as a presidential prospect is no laughing matter. CREDIT: The Project/Channel 10

US House Speaker Paul Ryan, the nation’s top elected Republican, told politicians on a conference call he will no longer “defend” or campaign with Donald Trump. Picture: Mandel Ngan/AFP

HOUSE Speaker Paul Ryan, America’s most powerful Republican, said he won’t campaign with, or defend, Donald Trump and he urged other Republicans to “do what’s best for you” in the presidential race.

He told his party on Monday that he now is focusing on ensuring Hillary Clinton doesn’t get a blank check as president with a Democratic-controlled Congress, suggesting that he doesn’t believe Trump can win the election.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton trade words during the second presidential debate. Picture: Paul J. Richards/AFP

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton trade words during the second presidential debate. Picture: Paul J. Richards/AFPSource:AFP

Ryan’s office quickly said he was not conceding the election’s outcome. But pro-Trump GOP House members got that impression, pushing back and saying Trump can still win and should not be abandoned.

In a conference call with GOP politicians, Ryan said he wouldn’t defend Trump or appear with the Republican presidential candidate for the rest of the campaign. Several people on the call said Ryan explicitly told House members, “You all need to do what’s best for you in your district.”

The remarkable development came after yesterday’s bitter second presidential debate and as Trump battled to rescue his campaign after the release last week of a 2005 video in which he is heard bragging about how his fame allowed him to “do anything” to women. Several leading Republicans have withdrawn their support or called for him to drop out of the race.

Ryan alongside Trump’s running mate Mike Pence. Picture: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP

Ryan alongside Trump’s running mate Mike Pence. Picture: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFPSource:AFP

Ryan’s message appeared to signal his disbelief in Trump’s ability to turn the campaign around with four weeks until Election Day, though he didn’t actually revoke his endorsement. He said his decision was driven by what he thought was best for the Republican-led Congress, not himself, according to people on the call.

Those politicians weren’t authorised to be quoted by name and demanded anonymity.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton came out swinging in the second presidential debate, after newly revealed lewd comments by Trump led many Republicans to drop their support of him. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib discusses their performances and whether Trump did enough to contain the damage. Photo: AP

Ryan said he will “spend his entire energy making sure that Hillary Clinton does not get a blank check with a Democrat-controlled Congress,” one such person said. Ryan added that he was “willing to endure political pressure to help protect our majority.”

In the eyes of many Republican leaders, the recent released tape of a 2005 conversation in which Trump made vulgar, predatory comments about women not only jeopardised his own uphill candidacy, but that of Republicans fighting to hold their majority in the Senate. Their commanding majority in the House could now be in peril, too.