WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican Donald Trump took steps to steer his White House campaign back into favor with his party on Friday with reported plans to endorse U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan after expressing coolness toward him earlier this week.
Fox News and CNN said Trump would endorse Ryan, the top U.S. elected Republican, in his re-election bid at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, which is Ryan’s home state. Ryan had no plans to attend the event, in a sign of lingering frictions between them.
Trump’s endorsement of the speaker should ease some of the tension generated by his refusal earlier this week to endorse Ryan when he told The Washington Post he was “not quite there yet” – using the same phrase Ryan had used about Trump before finally endorsing him.
Ryan, who has been endorsed by Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence, is viewed by establishment Republicans as a possible presidential candidate in the future. He is expected to win a challenge for his House seat in next week’s Republican primary from businessman Paul Nehlen.
An aide to Ryan said of Trump’s plans: “We have no knowledge of this and it’s a question for their campaign.”
Trump’s endorsement plan emerged as he took other steps to get his campaign back on track after days of controversy and falling poll numbers that have given Democrat Hillary Clinton the advantage in the race to the Nov. 8 election.
The New York businessman announced he was setting up an economic advisory team to help guide him on economic policy. The group relies heavily on hedge fund managers and investment bankers, a group Trump has railed against in the past, and includes no women.
In addition, Trump plans to release his framework for boosting the U.S. economy in a speech in Detroit on Monday, an event that will offer him a chance to avoid theatrics and to detail how he would handle economic issues if elected.
Clinton sought to take advantage of Trump’s dip in the polls at a conference of minority journalists in Washington, where she pledged an all-out fight for comprehensive immigration reform if she wins in November.
At the event, Clinton did what she has rarely done during the presidential campaign: take questions from reporters.
In doing so, she addressed two of the largest issues that continue to dog her campaign: the controversy over her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state during the Obama administration, and continuing skepticism among voters about her trustworthiness.
Clinton conceded that she had “short-circuited” earlier in the week in interviews when she had asserted that FBI director James Comey had concluded that she had been truthful in her statements about use of the private server.
Clinton had repeatedly said publicly that she never sent emails containing classified material, a finding that Comey contradicted at the conclusion of the FBI’s probe in July, when he rebuked her for “extremely careless” handling of classified information while recommending that no criminal charges be filed.
On Friday, Clinton maintained that, “I never sent or received anything marked classified,” while acknowledging that some material she sent may retroactively have been considered classified by other government agencies.
Republicans have repeatedly charged that Clinton endangered national security with her handling of classified material.
The email controversy has fueled a perception among a majority of voters that Clinton is untrustworthy. “I take it seriously,” she said. “It doesn’t make me feel good when people say those things. And I recognize that I have work to do.”
Still, as she has often done during her career, Clinton attributed much of her low standing on this issue to attacks from Republicans. “Maybe just maybe when I’m actually running for a job there is a real benefit to those on the other side to try and stir up as much concern as possible,” she said.
FINANCE AND INDUSTRY LEADERS
Trump’s campaign said his economic advisory panel included former steel executive Dan DiMicco; tobacco company Vector Group Ltd <VGR.N> President and CEO Howard Lorber; and Trump campaign finance chairman and investment manager Steven Mnuchin.
Hedge fund managers John Paulson and Steve Feinberg; anti-tax advocacy group Club for Growth’s Stephen Moore; and David Malpass, who has served under previous Republican administrations in the Treasury and State Departments, were also named.
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn turned down an invitation to join the group because he is considering funding a Super PAC focused on regulatory reform, Icahn’s general counsel told Reuters on Friday.
Trump’s moves came after many Republicans urged the candidate to correct course following a tumultuous week.
The real estate mogul and former reality television star was caught up for days in a public spat with the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq. The parents had spoken out against Trump at last week’s Democratic National Convention. Many Republicans, including Ryan, were critical of Trump’s insistent attacks on the parents.
Polls showed Trump’s support slipping nationwide. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found him trailing Clinton 38 percent to 47 percent, a 9-point gap. A Fox News poll showed Clinton ahead by 10 percentage points.
Republicans are concerned that Trump could lose not just his White House bid, but also cost them their control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
(Writing by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Frances Kerry)
Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally where his former rival for the Republican presidential nomination, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, announced his endorsement for Trump’s candidacy for president, in Fort Worth, Texas February 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Stone