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Paul Ryan slams Trump in speech about future of Republican Party

CBS News logo CBS News 5/28/2021 CBSNews
Paul Ryan wearing a suit and tie: House Speaker Paul Ryan Speaks Following A Meeting With U.S. President Donald Trump © .Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images House Speaker Paul Ryan Speaks Following A Meeting With U.S. President Donald Trump

The former speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, sounded a pointed warning to the GOP in a speech about its future, arguing that voters will have little patience for a party built on fealty to former President Trump. He told conservatives gathered at the Reagan Library, in Simi Valley California, Thursday night that they were at a crossroads.

"If the conservative cause depends on the populist appeal of one personality, or on second-rate imitations, then we're not going anywhere. Voters looking for Republican leaders want to see independence and mettle," he said. 

And leaving no doubt about who he was talking about, though he did not name Mr. Trump, Ryan continued, "They will not be impressed by the sight of yes-men and flatterers flocking to Mar-a-Lago."

Among the Republican politicians who have spent time with Mr. Trump at his Florida resort and publicly stood by him is House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who succeeded Ryan as the top House Republican when Ryan retired from the House in 2018.

Ryan, who had his disagreements with Mr. Trump, also expressed deep dismay at the way his presidency concluded. "It was horrifying to see a presidency come to such a dishonorable and disgraceful end," he said.

But he did mention the former president by name in praising economic growth that took place during his presidency, prior to the pandemic and said, "To his credit, Donald Trump brought many new voters into our party."

Mr. Trump responded to Ryan's remarks with a statement calling him "a curse to the Republican Party" who "has no clue as to what needs to be done for our Country" and was "a weak and ineffective leader." 

Ryan's speech kicked off the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute's new series on the Republican Party's future, its philosophies and what it should stand for. 

Ryan was also critical of President Biden, whom he accused of running as a moderate in 2020 and then "pursuing an agenda more leftist than any president in my lifetime." And he asserted that Democrats practice "identity politics" in which "everything has to be about race, gender and class." 

Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.

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