WASHINGTON • Ending weeks of reluctance to embrace his party's presumptive nominee, United States Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has endorsed Mr Donald Trump for president in a modest but unequivocal backing of a candidate whose views Mr Ryan has frequently condemned.
In a column in his hometown Janesville Gazette newspaper in Wisconsin on Thursday, Mr Ryan said speaking with Mr Trump had persuaded him that the billionaire developer would help him realise the conservative agenda he is trying to advance.
"Through these conversations, I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people's lives," said Mr Ryan, who is also chairman of the Republican National Convention that will nominate Mr Trump. "That's why I'll be voting for him this fall."
The endorsement is the latest example of leading Republicans falling in line behind Mr Trump.
Mr Ryan faced substantial pressure from fellow Republicans in Congress - many of whom share his misgivings about Mr Trump - because they realised that high- level public divisiveness over Mr Trump's candidacy only weakens the billionaire and increases the political risks of defending their majorities in the House and Senate.
Mr Ryan's support will make for a much smoother Republican convention next month for both Mr Trump and the Speaker.
After a sometimes awkward courtship, Mr Trump said he was happy that Mr Ryan had finally backed him. "I'm very pleased. I have a good relationship with him, actually," Mr Trump said in an interview.
The highest-ranking elected Republican, Mr Ryan has been highly critical of Mr Trump's proposal to bar Muslims from entering the United States, saying the pledge was anathema to conservative principles and "not what this country stands for".
Mr Ryan explained that he had withheld his support until he could discuss his policy priorities with Mr Trump.
But he said he would not hesitate to disagree with him. "It's no secret that he and I have our differences," Mr Ryan said in the column.
"I won't pretend otherwise. And when I feel the need to, I'll continue to speak my mind. But the reality is, on the issues that make up our agenda, we have more common ground than disagreement."
Meanwhile, Mr Trump's likely rival for the Nov 8 presidential election, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, on Thursday delivered a lacerating rebuke of her opponent, declaring that Mr Trump was hopelessly unprepared and temperamentally unfit to be commander-in-chief.
Electing him, she said, would be a "historic mistake".
Lobbing some of the most fiery lines of her presidential campaign, Mrs Clinton painted Mr Trump as a reckless, childish and uninformed amateur who is playing at the game of global statecraft.
"This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes, because it's not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin," she said.
Mrs Clinton, whose campaign had been grappling for weeks over how to handle Mr Trump, seemed to find her footing as she addressed an audience in San Diego who laughed and cheered as she deconstructed Mr Trump's foreign policy pronouncements, calling them "just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies".
She said she imagined Mr Trump "composing nasty tweets" about her as she spoke, seeking to turn Mr Trump's prolific Twitter habit into an additional bullet point demonstrating that he was unfit for the presidency.
She twice referred to the scene in the White House Situation Room where, as secretary of state, she advised Mr Obama on the 2011 raid on a compound in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.
"Imagine Donald Trump sitting in the situation room, making life- or-death decisions on behalf of the United States," she said, eliciting cries of "No!" from her audience.
Mr Trump, speaking at a rally in San Jose, California, on Thursday night, ridiculed the Democrat's speech. "It was pathetic... She was up there, supposed to be a foreign policy speech. It was a political speech (and) had nothing to do with foreign policy."
NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE