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Paul Ryan Says Trump is Trolling Obama Officials

Speaker addresses issue in context of threats to revoke security clearances

PBS show traced Ryan back to his 10th great-grandfather. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
PBS show traced Ryan back to his 10th great-grandfather. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In a rare political moment, the speaker of the House on Tuesday accused the president of the United States of trolling people. But his description is a bit off for the issue he was addressing.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan was asked during a news conference whether he thinks threats by President Donald Trump to revoke security clearances of former Obama administration officials is dangerous.

“I think he’s trolling people, honestly,” Ryan said.

Trolling as a modern term was coined by millennials to describe online comments and postings that were meant to antagonize people.

Ryan: Trump Is ‘Trolling People’ on Security Clearance Threats


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That definition of troll is now in Merriam-Webster, as well as one that extends the antagonizing technique beyond online comments. It reads: “to harass, criticize, or antagonize (someone) especially by provocatively disparaging or mocking public statements, postings, or acts.”

Ryan is probably not wrong about Trump’s intentions. He frequently uses his Twitter account to troll his critics and even sometimes congressional Republicans.

But there’s a clear distinction in this case. Trump has not on Twitter or in any other forum directly commented about the security clearance matter. His consideration of revoking the clearances former Obama officials who’ve criticized him has only been communicated through his spokeswoman, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The speaker, for his part, noted that decisions on security clearances are not Congress’s to make.

“This is something that’s in the purview of the executive branch,” he said.

On Tuesday Ryan was also asked about Trump’s plan to sit down for another meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, this time in Washington sometime this fall.

The speaker said he is comfortable with presidents having one-on-one meetings with foreign leaders, but it’s the message that counts.

“If the message is stop meddling in our country, stop violating our sovereignty, then I support that,” he said.

Asked if Trump can be more firm in communicating that, Ryan said, “I think we can always be firmer on that message.”

Ryan also made clear that Putin will not be invited to speak to Congress.

“We will certainly not be giving him an invitation to do a joint session,” he said. “That’s something we reserve for allies.”

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