Donald Trump’s first congressional backer told reporters Thursday that Speaker Paul D. Ryan could be risking his gavel if he does not eventually support Trump.
New York Rep. Chris Collins made the comments outside the Republican National Committee offices where the presumptive GOP presidential nominee was meeting with Ryan and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, with a second meeting with Ryan and other House Republican leaders starting immediately after that.
Asked if Ryan should continue as speaker if he does not eventually get behind Trump, Collins said, “Well if he didn’t support the Republican nominee and Donald Trump became the president, you’ve answered that same question, which would be no. But I don’t think you’ll ever hear that. Donald Trump and Paul Ryan will come together.”
Collins told reporters that he was “very optimistic” that Ryan would support Trump. Collins was one of several Trump supporters who met with Ryan Wednesday, ahead of Thursday’s meeting.
“What [Ryan] said very clearly is ‘I don’t know the man, I’ve never met the man. I need to have a relationship with the next president of the United States as the speaker,'” Collins said.
Collins said Republicans were likely caught off guard by how quickly Trump secured the nomination, which sources close to Ryan have said was the case for the speaker. Trump sewed up a bitter primary fight last week when his final two rivals dropped out.
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But Collins said it is imperative for the party to come together by the end of the month. And he had some strong words for some of his fellow Republicans who have said they will not vote for Trump or Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in November.
“How an elected official can message to America, ‘Don’t vote.’ I find that embarrassing for them. I find it unbelievable that any elected official would message to people ‘Don’t vote.’ That’s why I’ve said these people are becoming irrelevant,” Collins said.
“I’ve made the same message to to my fellow members. You may not, and I don’t agree with Mr. Trump on every issue. … For Republicans to say, ‘I’m not going not vote on this upcoming election,’ I just am baffled by that.”
[Related: Republicans Who Just Say No to Trump]
Collins co-chairs Trump’s House Leadership Committee, and holds weekly meetings with GOP members to keep them informed about the campaign. Collins said he is not meeting with Trump on Thursday, but that Trump is interested in meeting with the entire Republican conference at some point in the future.