Ryan talks about handling Trump, avoiding ‘tragedy’

House Speaker Paul Ryan suggests in a new interview that a success of his tenure as House speaker has been to avoid unnamed “tragedies” during the Trump administration.

Speaking with The New York Times, Ryan discussed at length his relationship with the former business mogul ahead of his retirement from Congress at the end of this year. He told the Times that he privately appeals to the president and feels that he has managed to influence Trump’s thinking and behavior so as to avoid “tragedy.”

“I can look myself in the mirror at the end of the day and say I avoided that tragedy, I avoided that tragedy, I avoided that tragedy. I advanced this goal, I advanced this goal, I advanced this goal,” Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, told the Times over a series of interviews that were published in a Tuesday report.

Ryan would not provide the Times with an example of a “tragedy” he thinks he thwarted.

“No, I don’t want to do that,” Ryan said. “That’s more than I usually say.”

Responding to some of the flak he’s received in not speaking out against Trump in exchange for getting a tax bill passed, Ryan told the Times, “I’m very comfortable with the decisions I’ve made. I would make them again, do it again the same way.”

The House speaker also said that criticizing Trump too forcefully is an ineffective strategy in dealing with him.

“It boomerangs. He goes in the other direction, so that’s not effective,” Ryan said, adding, “The pissing match doesn’t work.”

Ryan also admitted to the Times that he was shocked by Trump’s rise in politics.

“I didn’t see it coming. It threw me off,” he said.

Ryan announced in April that he would not seek re-election and will retire from Congress in January.

The Trump-Ryan relationship began on rocky footing, as Ryan withheld his endorsement of Trump during the 2016 election until Trump became the presumptive GOP nominee. Ryan occasionally criticized Trump for his rhetoric on the campaign trail and distanced himself from the real estate mogul after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced.

After Trump’s election victory, however, the two have worked together to pass a Republican legislative agenda, though there is still occasional friction, most recently over Trump’s tariffs and his embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Helsinki last month.