WASHINGTON ― House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wouldn’t say whether sexual misconduct allegations against President Donald Trump merit attention, but pledged to help “change the culture” for women in the workplace.
Asked on NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday whether Congress should investigate the president’s alleged history of sexual misconduct, Ryan dodged the question. He wouldn’t say whether he believes the stories of more than a dozen women who say Trump sexually harassed or assaulted them in incidents that span decades.
Several of Trump’s accusers have called for a congressional investigation in response to the cascade of sexual misconduct claims against prominent men in politics, media, sports and entertainment. Some Democratic lawmakers have said Trump should resign.
The White House has repeatedly claimed that all of Trump’s accusers are liars.
Ryan on Wednesday dismissed the misconduct allegations against the president as “this other stuff.” At the same time, he argued “we need to change the culture” for women in the workplace, including in Congress.
“I don’t even know what all of these allegations are,” Ryan said of the accusations against Trump. “I’m focused on fixing Congress. I’m focused on my job where I work, making this institution safe. I want my daughter to be able to grow up in an economy, to go into work, public or private sector, where she’s not being harassed, where she’s being empowered. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not focused on this other stuff.”
He said bringing up the accusations against the president makes the issue of sexual misconduct “a partisan food fight” ― even though the issue has ensnared politicians of both parties.
Sexual misconduct claims against lawmakers in Congress have led to resignation or retirement announcements from Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), and Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.).
Ryan attempted to explain why those cases merited scrutiny, but not Trump’s, saying the accusations against the president involved “criminal matters.”
“Congress doesn’t do criminal investigations,” Ryan said.
As host Savannah Guthrie pointed out, Congress can conduct ethics investigations, and has scrutinized several lawmakers in response to sexual misconduct claims.
Ryan again dodged the question, touting efforts to overhaul the process for addressing sexual misconduct in Congress, and saying the culture needs to change.
“We need to make sure this moment is the cultural-changing moment it needs to be,” Ryan said. “We need to change the culture.”