"Of course there needs to be a degree of independence between (the Justice Department), FBI and the White House, and a line of communications established," Ryan said during his news conference, which occurred at the same time as Comey was testifying across Capitol Hill before the Senate intelligence committee..
"The President's new at this. He's new to government. So, he probably wasn't steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White Houses. He's just new to this."
Pushed further by CNN, Ryan said, "I'm not saying it's an acceptable excuse. It's just my observation."
"He's new at government, and so therefore I think that he -- he is learning as he goes," Ryan said.
There is a "faint damning" there, isn't there? One could defend Trump by not taking Comey's testimony at face value, or dismiss it as being just one-side of the story. But Ryan does take Comey's testimony at face value, and follows it up with the "He doesn't know what he's doing" defense. It's hardly any kind of defense at all--he's new to politics, he just doesn't understand how not to be shady. But President Trump is a grown man who should have tried to understand these relationships and at least consider the propriety of what he was asking and what it would look like.
But Ryan's assessment isn't wrong--that's the annoying thing. It's been established that Trump has gaps in his knowledge of how things like foreign policy and domestic policy work. It's also not a new defense of him--not so long ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defended an apparent flip-flop on Trump's part by stating he was "learning the job". This might account for rugged foreign policy moments like just this Friday, where, taking questions, Trump did express his commitment to NATO Article Five, which he did not do on his European trip, and also undermined his State Department's messaging on Qatar. (I really don't know what to make of an MSNBC report that Trump may not have known about the US Al Udeid Air Base. I just don't--it had to have come up in briefings, right?)
I think this makes me sore in part because we were hearing from pundits well into Obama's second term about the problems of "learning on the job" when it comes to the presidency. Of course, no one can be entirely expert at the world. It's really very big and complicated. But I do think that Obama had more to work with coming into office, and showed more attentiveness to the lessons.
Next week is National Apprenticeship Week, which will focus on companies filling jobs. I think maybe his administration should take a good tip from that push and work on filling their own crucial and vacant spaces. And Trump himself should take his own "WH apprenticeship" a bit more seriously.