GOP lawmaker: Move to oust Ryan grows over speaker's tepid support of Trump

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Story highlights

  • Paul Ryan is facing heat for his Donald Trump stance, Rep. Mark Meadows says
  • The House speaker has had a turbulent relationship to his party's presidential nominee

(CNN)The conservative Republican congressman who led the charge to oust former Speaker John Boehner is now agitating for the removal of his replacement.

Rep. Mark Meadows said Thursday the effort to remove Speaker Paul Ryan is "picking up some steam" because many GOP lawmakers and a stream of callers to the North Carolinian's congressional offices are incensed the Wisconsin Republican hasn't embraced fully Donald Trump's candidacy for president.
    "A lot of people who believe so desperately that we need to put Donald Trump in the White House -- they question the loyalty of the speaker," Meadows told radio host Tyler Cralle of WAAV radio in Wilmington, North Carolina.
    Meadows, one of the 30-plus members of the ultra-conservative and powerful House Freedom Caucus, said there "will be real discussions after November 8 on who our leadership will be and what that will look like going forward."
    House Republicans are expected to meet privately the week after the election to vote for their leaders.
    Meadow's sentiment got a boost from conservative commentator Sean Hannity who told the Washington Post that he'd like to see Meadows or two other members of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio or Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, run against Ryan for the House's top job.
    Just over a year ago, Meadows, a mild-mannered second term lawmaker who was worried Boehner wasn't taking a hard line in spending negotiations with the White House, threatened to force a no-confidence vote that might have succeeded. But before it could happen, the Ohio Republican shocked his colleagues by resigning.
    In the radio interview Meadows referenced an "infamous" conference call for House Republicans that Ryan led last Monday in which the speaker said he would no longer campaign for or defend the GOP standard-bearer. Ryan has had a publicly troubled relationship with Trump for months, but his decision to back away from Trump -- although not formally unendorsed him -- came after the controversial Access Hollywood videos were released showing Trump bragging about sexually abusing women.
    Ryan's stance upset many Trump supporters.
    "I've probably had more calls about the speaker and where he is and why he's not getting behind the nominee than any other call in the last week or so since the infamous conference call," Meadows said.
    Asked for reaction to Meadow's comments, Ryan's spokeswoman AshLee Strong said, "Speaker Ryan is fighting to ensure we hold a strong majority next Congress, and he is always working to earn the respect and support of his colleagues."
    Privately, Ryan's allies argue he has broad support in the GOP conference and his job is safe.
    Even Meadows recognized Trump is not a traditional conservative candidate and acknowledged he didn't support him initially. But he said there is too much at stake -- such as Supreme Court appointments -- not to back the Republican.
    "It's not as much about the shared values, because I'm certainly more conservative than he is," Meadows said about Trump. "But it's a shared concern about the direction the country is going."