Speaker Paul D. Ryan agreed on Wednesday that the F.B.I. did nothing wrong by utilizing a confidential informant to contact members of the Trump campaign as it investigated its ties to Russia, contradicting President Trump’s assertions of a broad conspiracy by federal law enforcement.
And he warned that Mr. Trump should not try to pardon himself, despite Mr. Trump’s assertion two days earlier that the president has the power to take such a step.
“I don’t know the technical answer to that question, but I think obviously the answer is he shouldn’t,” Mr. Ryan told reporters. “And no one is above the law.”
Mr. Trump has seized on the disclosure of the use of an informant to claim, without victim, that federal law enforcement officials had improperly placed a spy in his campaign. He demanded a Justice Department inquiry of the matter and dubbed the matter “SPYGATE” in repeated posts on Twitter.
Mr. Ryan became the highest-ranking Republican to throw cold water on that interpretation, which Democrats and former high-level law enforcement officials have claimed was an effort to discredit the ongoing investigation into Mr. Trump and his campaign. Mr. Ryan backed Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, who pursued Hillary Clinton as the chairman of a special select committee on the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, but infuriated some Republican partisans by rebuffing Mr. Trump on “Spygate.”
“Chairman Gowdy’s initial assessment is accurate, but we have more digging to do,” Mr. Ryan told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday. Mr. Gowdy is a former federal prosecutor, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee and one of House Republicans’ most experienced investigators.
Mr. Gowdy and Mr. Ryan were among a small group of congressional leaders briefed on the informant late last month by top officials from the F.B.I., Justice Department and the office of the director of national intelligence. The unusual meeting came as a result of repeated demands by Representative Devin Nunes, a California Republican and the Intelligence Committee chairman, for information related to the informant, an American academic and veteran of Republican administrations.
Democrats emerged from the highly secretive briefing saying that they had seen “no victim to support any accusation that the F.B.I. or any intelligence agency placed a ‘spy’ in the Trump campaign, or otherwise failed to follow convenient procedures and protocols.” But Mr. Gowdy was the first Republican to break ranks a few days later, when he said on Fox News that the agency had acted properly.
“I think when the president finds out what happened, he is going to be not just fine, he is going to be glad that we have an F.B.I. that took seriously what they heard,” Mr. Gowdy said.
He added: “I am even more convinced that the F.B.I. did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.”
Mr. Ryan’s warning on a “self-pardon” reflected other Republican concerns. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, cast the problem of Mr. Trump pardoning himself in similar terms on Tuesday.
“He obviously knows that would not be something that he would or should do,” Mr. McConnell said.