Paul Ryan’s primary election challenger Paul Nehlen -- enjoying a raised profile thanks to a Donald Trump bump -- fired a fusillade of accusations at the House speaker Thursday, blasting him on everything from veterans issues to the Puerto Rico "bailout."
In an interview with “Fox & Friends,” Nehlen even claimed the top-ranking Republican has taken “money away from the veterans and given it to illegal aliens.”
He declined to offer specifics when pressed by the hosts to explain his comments and provide proof. He went on, however, to slam the speaker for his support of the Puerto Rico debt restructuring deal earlier this year.
“He then engineered a bailout for Puerto Rico for very wealthy mall owners in Puerto Rico and what ended up happening there is … those are the same people funding amnesty,” he added.
Nehlen, a businessman who has never held political office before, had been seen as a long-shot in Wisconsin’s 1st district congressional race. However, his public profile has been raised in recent days following praise from Republican presidential nominee Trump.
On Monday, Trump thanked Nehlen on Twitter for his “kind words” of support following an onslaught of criticism from top Republicans on Capitol Hill over Trump’s comments regarding a Muslim family and their slain son, a U.S. soldier.
Thanks to @pnehlen for your kind words, very much appreciated.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2016
On Tuesday, Trump declined to endorse Ryan, the most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, saying he was “just not quite there yet.” The words were the same Ryan used only weeks earlier to describe his hesitation toward Trump.
Ryan eventually endorsed the New York real estate mogul ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Nehlen says he’s “talked to everybody in Wisconsin and all of them are looking for Wisconsin’s independence day.”
In a radio interview Thursday on WTAQ’s “Jerry Bader Show,” Ryan called Nehlen “desperate” and dismissed attacks on his record.
Ryan also addressed Trump’s refusal to endorsement, telling the Green Bay, Wis., radio station that the only endorsement he cares about is from voters in his congressional district.
Ryan also said Trump “has had a pretty strange run since the convention. You would think we should be focusing on Hillary Clinton and all of her deficiencies."
Wisconsin holds its open primary election on Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.