Paul Ryan's interview with "CBS This Morning" – full transcript

House Speaker Paul Ryan's decision not to seek re-election is sending Republicans scrambling ahead of November's midterm ballot. Ryan is one of at least 24 GOP House members who are retiring. Ryan says he is stepping down to spend more time with his family, saying he's tired of being a "weekend dad." 

In his first in-depth network interview since his announcement, he sits down with "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King at his U.S. Capitol office for a wide-ranging conversation. 

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House Speaker Paul Ryan and "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King

CBS News

Full Transcript 

GAYLE KING: Weekend dad no more, Speaker Ryan is joining us now to tell us-- tell us-- take us behind the scenes of your decision. Because this is the thing, Mr. Speaker. A couple months ago you said when you were asked about it, "That's ridiculous. I'm not even considering it. No way. I'm here to stay." What has changed in the last couple of months?

PAUL RYAN: Well, what I said then w-- I wasn't gonna resign. And I'm not doing that. So the question was-- was I once tax reform was done gonna resign? And the answer was no. I'm gonna run through the tape, finish the term. But I've been thinking--

KING: But I think the question implied that you're going to be here for the long haul, whether it's resign or retire.

RYAN: Well -- but I wasn't gonna resign. And I never ruled out retirement. I've said all along, just like Janna and I do every two years, we, before the filing deadline, decide whether we're gonna stay or not. The filing deadline's coming up. We made our decision a different way this year. You know why? 'Cause our kids aren't getting younger. I gotta tell you, Gayle, I've had so many people in their 50s, 60s and 70s tell me, "I wish I spent more time with my kids." Well, my kids have only known me their entire lives as a weekend dad. And now they're teenagers in or about to be in high school. And you know--

KING: Did you ever consider moving your family to D.C. so you wouldn't have to be a weekend dad?

RYAN: Yeah, we thought about it. But we're Wisconsinites. You know, we thought about that. But it's-- just didn't seem to make sense to me. I live on the block I grew up on. There are 10 Ryan family households within eight blocks of my house. I'm-- I'm a big Janesville, Wisconsin guy with a big family.

KING: I think, Mr. Speaker, nobody questions your dedication to your family and your love for your family. But I was taking the Acela yesterday, the 4 o'clock. You were the topic of conversation on the train. And people said, "Oh, this is--" I heard two schools of thought. "Yay, freedom for him," or, "What happened to Paul Ryan?" Did Trump fatigue in any way play a role in this?

RYAN: No, the other factor is, I feel like I've actually gotten most done what I wanted to do. So I've been here 20 years in Congress. The first issue I focused on, they have even video of me as a congressman-elect, was tax reform.

KING: I saw it.

RYAN: I was-- I'm an old Jack Kemp guy. I've been working on tax reform since I got here. It's why I became chair of Ways and Means Committee. We got that done. I'm a big believer in a strong military. Our military has been hollowed out. It's been-- it's been under duress. We are now fixing that. That is done. The economic growth platform that we want is in place.

The enterprise zones that I used to work on for years is now in law, which helps poor communities revitalize. So the point being, I have accomplished most of what I came here to do. The one thing that still has to get done is entitlement reform. I'm proud that ever since I was budget chair the House has passed budgets every-- every term to balance the budget, pay off the debt, and that the House passed the biggest entitlement reform bill ever considered last year. Unfortunately, it failed by a vote in the Senate. But the point being it's basically two reasons.

KING: Okay, before we get in--

RYAN: I've done-- I've accomplished most of what I wanted to accomplish, and my-- like I said, I don't want to be a weekend dad for my kids' entire life at home.

KING: Okay. So-- so you're very happy with your decision. But still, I go back to many people who say if we had a different president in the White House, you would still be there.

RYAN: That's--

KING: That after a while, it just got to the point-- you know, this is what people said to me, Mr. Speaker. "What happened to Paul Ryan? You know, why didn't he speak up? Why didn't he stand up to the president about things that many believe were personally offensive to you?" And that if we had a different person in the White House, that you would not be leaving.

RYAN: No, that's not the case. It-- it-- it's really a timing of family. And it's the fact that I've accomplished much of the agenda I came here to accomplish. With respect to the president, look, I always act in a way that I think is in the best interest of the country to move us forward. And I've always found, especially with my relationship with the president, we have a very good, very candid dialogue.

And I found it's better to talk to the president instead of talk about the president on the-- on the TV, on media. So I find that I have a much more effective relationship with him by having personal dialogues with him than going out and wailing on him on TV. That d-- that may score points. It may make people happy. But I don't see how it gets things done.

KING: So are you--

RYAN: And more importantly, we have advanced a very impressive agenda. We ran on an agenda in 2016. We won the election. And we've been executing it ever since. And I'm very proud of that fact. So I'm very proud of the accomplishments. But it really is a phase of life. If-- if-- if my mentor Jack Kemp was still around and was president today, I'd still be going home. Just not be a weekend--

KING: Yeah, your mentor Jack Kemp is very different from President Trump. Do you ever feel that you had to compromise your own personal values to--

RYAN: No.

KING: --play along, to get along with him?

RYAN: No. I mean, obviously we've had our differences. And we have disagreed privately and publicly. And that is the way it is. But I really do believe that-- that I've been doing things that are in the best interest of the country to move it forward.

KING: Did he make it difficult for you?

RYAN: And like I said, I think having a candid dialogue-- no, it actually hasn't.

KING: To do your job?

RYAN: He didn't make it difficult for me. He-- he gave us the ability to get historic things in law that we've been trying to get for a generation. That's not making things difficult. That's actually facilitating real reform that, by the way, the economy's growing now. Wages are going up. People are getting bonuses. People are getting back to work. We are now on the cusp of pulling more people out of poverty into the workforce because he won the election and gave us the ability to get these great policies into place.

KING: So you-- you had dinner with the president last night. There was a big picture, a photo picture with the thumbs up. Very celebratory. What were you all celebrating?

RYAN: Just the accomplishments we've had to-- heretofore and then the rest of the agenda that we're working on. We're working on infrastructure. We're working on some health care bills. We're working on-- lots of different bills with respect to workforce development, career and technical education. And we were celebrating the agenda we've passed and the agenda we have yet to pass this-- this-- this session and this spring.

KING: 'Cause, you know, when I look at that picture, Mr. Speaker, I have to say I don't see anybody that looks like me in terms of color or gender. And you were one of the main people that said you want to do more for the Republican Party, to expand. You wanted to expand the base. Some say this president really doesn't want to expand the base. So when I look at that picture, I have to say I don't feel very celebratory. I feel very excluded.

RYAN: Well, I-- I-- I don't like the fact that you feel that way. And we need more minorities, more women in our party. And I've been focusing on that kind of recruitment. The person who I'm a mentor to, literally, technically I became her mentor, is Mia Love. She's somebody I recruited in a primary to come to Congress. There are a lot of candidates like Mia that we're recruiting all around the country because I do believe that.

And that's something I'm going to keep working on. That's something-- I'm not going away from-- from-- from life. I'm going to keep being involved and focusing on inclusive, aspirational politics. I'm going to keep fighting for the things I believe in. And that's among the things I want to do. I'm going to spend a lot of time with my friend Bob Woodson on poverty initiatives. Those are things I care a great deal about that frankly I have been not able to spend time on because of a pretty busy day job.

KING: You do have a very busy day job. And some people look at it and say that, you know, especially your timing now, you know, when some would say you're needed more than ever as we go-- as we get ready for the midterm elections. That are you jumping ship and really leaving the Republican Party where we need-- we need the Republicans--

RYAN: Well, obviously--

KING: --some say.

RYAN: Some-- and I hope you say it, too, Gayle. (LAUGH) So--

KING: Listen. I love everybody, Paul Ryan.

RYAN: Yeah, you do.

KING: I love everybody.

RYAN: You-- you do.

KING: I do.

RYAN: Everybody loves you because of that. But--

KING: No, I do.

RYAN: But-- first of all, I'm not going anywhere anytime soon. I'm running through the tape. Second of all--

KING: Do you feel you're jumping ship though?

RYAN: No, not at all. You know why? Because I think we have a fantastic leadership team that we can transition to easily. They already know how to do the job. More importantly, I don't think anybody's particular race in Congress is gonna hinge on whether or not Paul Ryan's speaker of their House or not. It's gonna be about ideas. It's gonna be about visions. It's gonna be about choices.

KING: But it sends a message though to some that you're stepping down at this time.

RYAN: Well, look. You have to make a decision personally. And-- and-- and nothing trumps my-- my-- my family. Nothing trumps the fact that I don't want to be a weekend dad for my entire kids' lives. And nothing trumps the fact that we've accomplished a great deal.

KING: Who would you like--

RYAN: We have a good record to run on.

KING: --to get your gavel?

RYAN: Well, I'll-- I'll-- I'll probably make comments on that a little bit later. But right--

KING: We have time now.

RYAN: (LAUGH) No, you're burning—you're burning airtime. You gotta run commercials.

KING: No, because I keep thinking about the piece that Norah did with-- with Mr. Scalise. And when you walked in, there was clearly a bond between the two of you that was so genuine and so raw. And I was thinking he must be your leading candidate. Can you say yea or nay to that?

RYAN: I'm not gonna get into those issues. I'll-- I'll probably have more to say on that pretty soon. But I love this entire leadership team. I feel very strongly about it. We have gone through a lot together. We're very close. And we-- what-- what I like about this particular leadership team is we all row the boat in the same direction. And that necessarily wasn't the case with some prior teams.

KING: Let's talk about the news of the day with-- Mr. Mueller. You know, there is-- we're-- there is rumored that Steve Bannon is in the president's ear again and that he's encouraging him to fire Robert Mueller, that he's-- ask-- he's encouraging him not to participate with the investigation. What are your thoughts about that?

RYAN: I obviously don't think he should do that. He knows what I think about that. And I think Bob Mueller and the career professionals at the DOJ should be left to do their jobs.

KING: Shouldn't Congress take action to protect Robert Mueller?

RYAN: Well, I don't think that's necessary 'cause I don't think it's under consideration. And--

KING: Why do you think it's under consideration?

RYAN: I don't think it's under consideration. I-- I-- because of the kind of conversations I've had with people in the White House. I don't think it's in the president's interest to do that. I think--

KING: But, Mr. Speaker, you can have conversations with people in the White House that say one thing one day and then the next day it's totally different. You have whiplash trying to keep up with what the--

RYAN: Sure.

KING: --the conversation there.

RYAN: My point's really clear. I've been saying the same thing all along. He should be left to do his job. We have a system based upon the rule of law. We need to respect that system. And I think we should just leave these guys to do their jobs.

KING: What are you proudest of as you get ready to retire?

RYAN: A bulk of work, which advanced a political philosophy that brings more growth and opportunity to focus on the American idea. I believe so passionately this idea in this country that the condition of your birth does not and should not determine the outcome of your life. And I think what we've been able to do to grow the economy makes a difference. I think I've done a lot to advance the debate on entitlement reform.

We have not yet won that debate. It's gotta be more bipartisan. And-- and I regret that it isn't. But that's you prevent a debt crisis. And I'm also very, very-- and I've learned to spend a lot of time with the military since being speaker. We needed to rebuild our military. We were-- people were dying in training accidents, 80 last year alone. And I'm very proud of the fact that we have rebuilt our military, our Veterans Administration, and this economy is growing. So I'm-- I'm-- I'm just pleased with that body of work.

KING: This is something that's bubbling up this morning, where you said that you're-- you're not r-- you're not resigning, that you are retiring. But there are some of your colleagues who are saying, "Bye, bye, Paul Ryan. It's time for you to go now. Let's get a speaker in there now before the midterm elections." What do you say about that?

RYAN: Well, look, I don't think most--

KING: People are saying, "There is the door right over there, Mr. Ryan."

RYAN: I don't think most members want me to do that. I serve of course in this job at the pleasure of the members. But I think that kind of disruption's probably not good for us as a party, good for us as-- as-- as House Republicans. I think we have a seamless leadership team that can take over at the right time.

KING: All right. And one more thing with teenagers. Do they want you home, Paul Ryan?

RYAN: Yeah. Yeah, they do. (LAUGHTER) Believe it or not, they kinda like me.

KING: No, I believe they like you. But I was wondering if your kids are going, "Oh, good. Dad's gonna be home more." So they're just as excited as you.

RYAN: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

KING: And Janna I'm sure is, your wife.

RYAN: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

KING: All right. Well, we wish you nothing but the best. Of course, this story's not over. We will have many more conversations before January with you. Thank you very much for taking the time.

RYAN: Yeah. You bet, Gayle. Thank you for coming down.

KING: Thank you.