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Photo: Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R) in an address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., on Thursday evening told his fellow Republicans to stop focusing on the "populist appeal of one personality," and avoid getting "caught up in every little cultural battle," per excerpts of his remarks.

Why it matters: Former President Trump continues to have a profound influence over the GOP. In his speech, Ryan set out to "obliquely [criticize] Donald J. Trump ... warning Republicans that the only viable future for the fractured party is one unattached to the former president," the New York Times writes.

Yes, but: Ryan avoided mentioning Trump by name. Per excerpts, Ryan's only direct reference to the former president surrounds his "populist" image, which in conjunction with "conservative principles," Ryan credited for the "powerful and inclusive economic growth in 2020."

  • Of note: Earlier this week, Ryan headlined a fundraiser for prominent Trump critic Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).

What he's saying: "If the conservative cause depends on the populist appeal of one personality, or on second-rate imitations, then we’re not going anywhere," Ryan said.

  • "Voters looking for Republican leaders want to see independence and mettle."
  • "[W]e conservatives have to be careful not to get caught up in every little cultural battle. Sometimes these skirmishes are just creations of outrage peddlers, detached from reality and not worth anybody’s time," he said.
  • "They draw attention away from the far more important case we must make to the American people."
  • "[E]ven after the setbacks of 2020, it will be up to the conservative movement, as it always is, to serve those ideals with conviction, heart, and respect for the American people.”   

Ryan also criticized the Biden administration, saying, "In 2020, the country wanted a nice guy who would move to the center and depolarize our politics. Instead, we got a nice guy pursuing an agenda more leftist than any president in my lifetime. "

Go deeper

3 mins ago - World

UK government: Kremlin attempting "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: US National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Tax season nightmare ahead for understaffed IRS

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The IRS will start accepting 2021 tax returns in less than a week, and the filing delays and administrative headaches to come might eclipse last year — which was “one of the worst filing seasons," according to an independent advocacy agency within the IRS.

Why it matters: For taxpayers, especially with complex or paper filings, this means headaches, delayed refunds, and mistakes.

China builds its own movie empire

Expand chart
Data: Gower Street citing Comscore; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

China blocked all four of Disney's Marvel movies from being released in its theaters last year, a grim sign for U.S. film giants being squeezed out of the world's fastest-growing box office.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is using domestic films as a key conduit for mass messaging aimed at achieving political goals, leaving little room for foreign views.