Ryan says Russia investigation not 'a distraction' to tax bill

Paul Ryan GOP tax plan announcement ath_00000000
Paul Ryan GOP tax plan announcement ath_00000000

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    Paul Ryan unveils GOP tax plan

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Paul Ryan unveils GOP tax plan 01:26

Story highlights

  • The House Speaker was among Republicans who just announced a new tax plan
  • Paul Ryan says it will help the economy by giving the middle class a tax break

Washington (CNN)House Speaker Paul Ryan told CNN in an exclusive interview Thursday shortly after the release of Republicans' new tax bill that the Russia investigation is not hindering any of Congress' work.

"I don't see it as a distraction," he told CNN's Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill. "We have Russia investigations right here. We have a Russia investigation in the House, there's a Russia investigation in the Senate, oh and by the way, we can walk and chew gum at the same time."
    He continued: "Two guys getting indicted for something they did before the presidential campaign is not going to derail tax reform."
    Ryan was referring to the news that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump campaign official Rick Gates surrendered Monday to Justice Department authorities following a 12-count indictment. The two have pleaded not guilty. It was revealed that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI after he lied about his interactions with foreign officials close to the Russian government, the campaign's clearest connection so far to Russia's efforts to meddle in the 2016 election.
    When asked about his earlier remarks when he said he had "nothing to add" on news about the indictment, he clarified that he wants to let Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller do his job.
    "I have since come up to speed on these indictments because I think I needed to do that, but at the same time, I'm not going to stop everything else we're doing to fix the country's problems. That's the point I'm trying to make," he said. "Let Mueller do his job, let the professionals do their job, this is our justice system and the justice system needs to play itself out."
    He also pressed that the goal of the new tax plan is to help the middle class.
    "I'm sure that some biased groups, maybe from the left, will come up with their own modeling," he said. "But it's very clear and obvious that the whole purpose of this is a middle-class tax cut to give people more take-home pay."
    He continued, "And more to the point, we have to get faster economic growth, because with faster economic growth, you get bigger paychecks, you get bigger wage growth."
    He added that unlike with the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, the House, Senate and White House have been working together on tax reform.
    "What we did in the health care bill is that the House passed its bill, the President supported it, and the Senate kind of went in a different direction," he said. "What we really labor to do this time on tax reform is get the three of us working all year long on this project. So since the beginning of the summer, you had the White House, the Senate and the House working together, hand in hand, every single week, to put together this tax framework."
    He also said that President Donald Trump's public input on legislation doesn't affect Congress' efforts.
    "(Trump is) always throwing ideas in the pot," Ryan responded. "There is nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with giving input and ideas. We do it quite a bit privately and sometimes he does it publicly."
    When asked whether his public remarks undercut the efforts, Ryan said no.
    "Not at all. Not in the least," he responded.
    House Republicans unveiled key details and the text behind their tax legislation Thursday, but not without some reservations from rank-and-file members.
    "This is it. This is a very important and special moment for our country," Ryan said at a news conference before the interview with CNN. "This is our chance to make sure that generations to come don't just get by, they get ahead in this country."