A Hillary Clinton presidency would bog down in “scandal baggage,” House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said on Tuesday, adding he was focused on defending Republican majorities in Congress in the Nov. 8 election.
Republicans have hammered the Democratic candidate as scandal-prone since FBI Director James Comey revived questions about her handling of emails while she was secretary of state. They have reasserted threats to investigate Clinton from her first day in office if she is elected.
“This is what life with the Clintons looks like. It’s always a scandal one after another, then there’s an investigation,” Ryan, the most senior elected Republican in the country, told Fox News in an interview. “You never know what’s coming next.”
“She will come in just like (President) Barack Obama did, but with her scandal baggage. I don’t think that’s what the American people want to see,” Ryan said.
Opinion polls show Clinton maintaining her lead over Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, although her advantage has narrowed slightly since early last week. The effect of Comey’s news on voters’ support is not yet clear.
Comey said on Friday the Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking into new emails that might pertain to a previously completed investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server while she was secretary of state.
Trump and other Republicans have seized on the announcement, which indicated no wrongdoing on Clinton’s part, to cast doubt on Clinton’s integrity, hoping the news will damage not just Clinton but Democrats’ chances of regaining control of one or both chambers of Congress.
Ryan maintained the arms-length posture toward Trump that he adopted after a 2005 video emerged last month in which the New York businessman was heard boasting about groping women.
Ryan said he had voted for Trump in early voting last week, but that his position had not changed and that he had no plans to campaign with his party’s nominee, instead focusing on maintaining Republicans’ control of the House.
“My focus personally right now is saving our House majority. I’m going to Indiana, Michigan, New York and Virginia today to fight for House Republicans,” he told Fox.
While Republicans appear poised to keep control of the House, the race for the Senate remains evenly matched, according to an average of polls by RealClearPolitics.
Some conservative members of the Republican caucus in the House, unhappy with Ryan’s treatment of Trump and his handling of other issues on Capitol Hill, have questioned whether he should continue as speaker after the election.
“We’re all focused on beating Democrats on Nov. 8. All the rest of this stuff will sort itself out,” Ryan told Fox. “I’m very confident where I stand with our members.”
Republican Senator John Cornyn on Tuesday called for Attorney General Loretta Lynch, an Obama appointee, to intervene over the Clinton email probe. “AG Lynch has authority to unravel Clinton email mess by appointing a special counsel who can convene an impartial grand jury,” Cornyn wrote on Twitter.
Such a move would all but guarantee that controversy over Clinton’s email would simmer into 2017 and perhaps beyond, and potentially tie-up her agenda if she were elected to the White House.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz told The Washington Post last week he has years’ worth of potential material that could be used to investigate Clinton.
(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Frances Kerry)