Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan’s primary challenger, Paul Nehlen, revealed during a CNN interview on Wednesday an adversarial style that explains why he was recently praised by GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Top Republican leaders this week have lashed out at Trump after he refused to endorse the House Speaker and instead promoted Nehlen on Twitter.
During a Wednesday interview on CNN, Nehlen said that Trump’s reluctance to endorse the Speaker “was not surprising because Paul Ryan is more aligned with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.”
CNN’s Kate Bolduan noted that “no one would think Paul Ryan is aligned with Hillary Clinton at all.”
“A lot of people say he’s aligned with Hillary Clinton,” Nehlen insisted. “Paul Ryan has got a 20 year career — career politician who is all for open borders. Paul Ryan, we wouldn’t even have borders if it was [up to] Paul Ryan.”
“What?” Bolduan exclaimed.
“I feel I’ve heard Paul Ryan talk a lot about security at the border,” CNN’s John Berman pointed out. “I’m pretty sure he’s never said we should abolish borders. Because that would be a pretty extraordinary position to take. And if he does say it, I want to be the first to report it.”
“Well, I tell you what,” Nehlen quipped, “you ought to start reporting it now then because Paul Ryan is not for securing the borders.”
“You said we wouldn’t have borders at all if it was up to Paul Ryan,” Bolduan interrupted.
“Yeah,” the candidate answered. “Paul Ryan has said America is more than its borders, it’s more than this, it’s more than that. We have to have a secure border first in order to have a nation. Paul Ryan hasn’t funded that wall, that double layer, 700-mile wall that we got through Congress in 2006.”
“I mean, this is identity politics Paul Ryan is playing,” he continued. “And that’s what people hate with government, they hate it about the media. People are sick and tired of being, let’s select a group and use that group as a cudgel to beat the rest of America with. We’re sick of it.”
Nehlen thanked Trump for praising him in a tweet, but insisted that he had no other contact with the presidential campaign.
“I haven’t asked for his endorsement at all,” he remarked. “I’d be humbled by it if he gave me his endorsement, but the last thing I’d want is for him to screw up the presidential race.”
“Are you saying he would be screwing up the presidential race by endorsing you?” Bolduan wondered.
“I have no idea!” Nehlen shot back, raising his voice. “Why are we even talking about this? Why are you asking me about that? And why aren’t you asking Paul Ryan on air why he supports Trans-Pacific Partnership?”
“We’re asking you because it’s your campaign,” Bolduan said.
“Do you feel like Donald Trump is using you to get back at [Paul Ryan]?” Berman pressed. “Do you feel like you’re a pawn?”
“No, I mean, when somebody holds the door open for you and you say thank you is that using somebody?” Nehlen argued. “That’s absurd. That’s an absurd assertion on its face.”
“How does that turn into if somebody sneezes and I say ‘God bless you’ — was somebody used in that transaction? I mean, I don’t understand, how does this wedge-driving help?” he concluded. “I mean, Donald Trump is trying to get elected. I’m trying to get elected. I’m working on behalf of American jobs. Donald Trump is working on behalf of American jobs.”
Watch the video below from CNN, broadcast