President Trump used to call House Speaker Paul Ryan a "Boy Scout."
The Ayn Rand-reading, spin class-loving Wisconsin Republican thought it was a compliment. It took him a while to realize it wasn't.
That's one of the many things Ryan didn't quite get about Trump at first. He also didn't understand how the president was elected. But these misunderstandings haven't stopped him from quietly influencing the president every day, Ryan told The New York Times Magazine.
From the day Trump was elected, Ryan opted to temper his opposition to the president — something that's earned him scorn from never-Trump Republicans and Democrats alike. Deriding Trump "boomerangs" back in critics' faces, Ryan said, so instead he'll privately argue with the president to get things done. It may not get him public admiration, but "I can look myself in the mirror at the end of the day and say I avoided that tragedy ... I advanced this goal," he said.
Now, as finishes up his last days before retiring from the House, Ryan seems to think he understands the president a little bit better. Every time Trump says or does something outrageous, Ryan tells the Times that the president is "just trolling ... the people who don't like him" to cause a distraction. And "sometimes," Ryan says, he falls for it too.