Paul Ryan’s Georgia deputy criticizes his rebuke of Donald Trump

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Retiring Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland has become one of the most outspoken critics of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s rebuke of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, another sign that the divide over the billionaire is also splitting Congress.

Westmoreland, who as a House whip is one of Ryan’s top deputies in the chamber, told Politico over the weekend that Ryan is ignoring the will of the voters by withholding his support for Trump. From Politico:

“I honestly don’t understand what Paul’s thinking — I don’t get it,” said Westmoreland, who is retiring after this year. “I try not to give advice to the speaker, but I think it just really brought about, in my opinion, even more confusion to this thing.”

The Georgia lawmaker has been trying to convince his conservative friends that they have a choice: embrace Trump now, or roll out the red carpet for a President Hillary Clinton. Ryan’s comments essentially blessed a third option — hold out for now — that Westmoreland believes is poor politics.

Westmoreland wishes Ryan had been more subtle. “He could have come out and said, ‘Look, I’ll be 100 percent behind whomever comes out of our convention,’ and that would have been a simple way of saying: ‘I’m not endorsing Trump right now,’” he said.

The west Georgia Republican also sent his constituents a note shortly after Trump’s watershed Indiana victory – and shortly before his last two rivals dropped out – urging them to rally around the billionaire.

Westmoreland, who is stepping down after six terms, has more freedom than most to criticize his leader. But his pro-Trump posturing could also be an attempt to keep his options open in 2018 – and distance himself from the much-maligned Washington establishment.

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