WASHINGTON — President Trump attacked the Republican speaker of the House on Wednesday for criticizing his position on birthright citizenship and said he should focus instead on safeguarding the party’s majority in Congress, a remarkable display of intraparty fighting six days before midterm elections in which the Republican majority is at risk.
“Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about!” Mr. Trump said in a Twitter post.
Mr. Trump’s broadside came a day after Mr. Ryan, the speaker from Wisconsin, dismissed the president’s plan, floated on Tuesday, to take executive action to nullify the constitutional guarantee that anyone born in the United States is a citizen, which he said was “obviously” impossible.
It suggested that the president, even as he begins a nationwide sprint of rallies meant to salvage Republican control of the Senate, was already preparing to cast blame elsewhere for the possible loss of the House. And it was the starkest example yet of how Mr. Trump, who has insisted that the coming elections are about him, has put Republican candidates in the position of having to answer for statements, actions and issues many would rather not touch.
The dynamic was on display Tuesday in Pittsburgh, when the president, determined to rush to the site of Saturday’s synagogue massacre despite the pleas of local leaders to wait, was shunned by Republican and Democratic congressional leaders as well as local elected officials, all of whom declined invitations to appear with him. Mr. Trump was greeted by a lone Republican member of Congress, Representative Keith Rothfus of Pennsylvania, who opted to meet him privately during a stop at a hospital rather than in front of reporters and news cameras at the Tree of Life synagogue.
For his willingness to meet with Mr. Trump on a day when no other public official would, Mr. Rothfus received a favorable tweet from the president on Wednesday, the mirror image of the slap that Mr. Ryan got for crossing him.
Mr. Trump said he had been “really impressed” with Mr. Rothfus “far more so than any other local political figure,” citing the congressman’s “sincere level of compassion, grief and sorrow,” and exhorting his followers to “Vote for Keith!”