Republicans wonder who will fill Ryan’s shoes


WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to leave Congress at the end of the year touched off immediate speculation Wednesday about who will replace him as the Republican leader — and about what it means for President Trump and Democratic hopes to retake the House in the coming midterms.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is regarded as the logical choice. He is close to Trump, having courted the president longer than most other high-profile Republicans. The two get along well and talk often.

But the Californian has historically been viewed suspiciously by the most conservative members of Congress.

Early indications from the White House offered a mixed picture. Some officials told Yahoo News that McCarthy has the inside track. One former White House official said either McCarthy or Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana could get Trump’s backing.

“Both Kevin McCarthy and Scalise are very popular with the White House and close to the president,” the ex-official said.

But one Trump ally said the president prefers House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.

“Scalise … [is] a better story, and DJT loves narratives,” this person said.

Scalise’s story is that he was shot last June in an attack on a Congressional baseball practice, surviving a near-fatal wound to the hip. He was one of four people wounded in the shooting, but the only member of Congress. It has made him something of a mythic figure in the House.

RELATED: Shooting at congressional baseball practice

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Shooting at congressional baseball practice
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Shooting at congressional baseball practice
A police officer mans a shooting scene after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Police survey a shooting scene after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Police investigate a shooting scene after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) talks to reporters after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
People walk away from the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. The third highest ranked U.S. House Republican and at least four others were injured Wednesday morning in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice field the Alexandria neighborhood witnesses said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A police officer stands next to a vehicle with a damaged window near the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. The third highest ranked U.S. House Republican and at least four others were injured Wednesday morning in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice field the Alexandria neighborhood witnesses said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A police officer stands guard near the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. The third highest ranked U.S. House Republican and at least four others were injured Wednesday morning in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice field the Alexandria neighborhood witnesses said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
People stand past crime scene tape near the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. The third highest ranked U.S. House Republican and at least four others were injured Wednesday morning in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice field the Alexandria neighborhood witnesses said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Police tape is viewed near the crime scene of an early morning shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14, 2017. At least five people people including a top Republican congressman were wounded in a Washington suburb early Wednesday morning when a shooting erupted as they practiced for an annual baseball game between lawmakers. Senior congressman Steve Scalise was shot in the hip, according to fellow Republican lawmaker Mo Brooks who told CNN at least two law enforcement officers and one congressional staffer were also shot in the incident in Alexandria, Virginia. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: Investigators gather at Eugene Simpson Field, the site where a gunman opened fire June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. Multiple injuries were reported from the instance, the site where a congressional baseball team was holding an early morning practice, including House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) who was reportedly shot in the hip. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: Members the FBI survey the damages possibly caused by gun shots on a wall at the site of this morning's shooting at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five wounded in the attack, including the suspected gunman, as Republican congressional members practiced for a charity baseball game. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: A member of the FBI Evidence Response Team collects evidence at a vehicle whose window is broken at the site of this morning's shooting at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five wounded in the attack, including the suspected gunman, as Republican congressional members practiced for a charity baseball game. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team collect evidence at the site of this morning's shooting at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five wounded in the attack, including the suspected gunman, as Republican congressional members practiced for a charity baseball game. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US Representative Chuck Fleischmann, Republican of Tennessee, speaks to the media about a shooting incident during a Congressional baseball practice in Virginia after returning to the US Capitol in Washington, DC, June 14, 2017. Several people including a top Republican congressman were wounded in a Washington suburb early Wednesday morning when a gunman opened fire as they practiced for an annual baseball game between lawmakers. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, gets on an elevator as he heads to a vote at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, June 14, 2017, following a report that the shooter in the attack targeting Congressmen in nearby Virginia was a Sanders supporter. Several people including a top Republican congressman were wounded in a Washington suburb early Wednesday morning when a gunman opened fire as they practiced for an annual baseball game between lawmakers. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan walks to his office after making a statement on the House floor at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, June 14, 2017, following a shooting incident targeting Congressmen in nearby Virginia. Several people including a top Republican congressman were wounded in a Washington suburb early Wednesday morning when a gunman opened fire as they practiced for an annual baseball game between lawmakers. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: A marker is placed next to a piece of evidence at the scene of this morning's shooting at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five wounded in the attack, including the suspected gunman, as Republican congressional members practiced for a charity baseball game. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: Investigators search for evidence at the scene of this morning's shooting at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five wounded in the attack, including the suspected gunman, as Republican congressional members practiced for a charity baseball game. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 14: The Peace Monument at the U.S. Capitol is shown, on June 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. This morning House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) three others were shot by a gunman during Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who leads the hardline Freedom Caucus, could also make a play for the speakership or one of the other top posts in leadership.

One of the most senior Republican members of Congress predicted to Yahoo News that McCarthy would be able to lock up the speakership, or the Republican leadership, if Democrats win back the House early next year, after the fall elections. Ryan plans to serve out his term.

It’s likely that the issue won’t be settled for a while.

“Members are in shock and not sure if they really mentally want to go there yet,” said one House Republican leadership aide.

More: Congressional lawmakers who will not be seeking re-election in 2018

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Congressional lawmakers not seeking re-election come 2018
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Congressional lawmakers not seeking re-election come 2018
Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) 
Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
U.S. Republican Representative Darrell Issa
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-CA)
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA)
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA)

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas)

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) 

Rep. Dave Trott (R-Mich.)
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)

Rep. John 'Jimmy' Duncan (R-Tenn.)

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota)

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) 

(Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas)

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) 

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Washington)

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-New Mexico)

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio)

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX)
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)
Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-New Jersey

Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Florida

Photo Credit: Getty 

Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa.

Photo Credit: Getty

Sen. William Larkin (R-NY)

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) 

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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Ryan said he was leaving primarily to spend more time with his teenage children before they leave home. “I did not seek this job. I took it reluctantly. But I have given this job everything I had. And I have no regrets,” he said.

“I think we have achieved a heck of a lot,” he said.

Ryan’s departure is a short-term victory of sorts for Trump. The speaker and the president have worked together since Trump’s election, but were never close or all that comfortable with each other.

Ryan opposed Trump during the Republican primary and waited until June, after Trump had locked up the nomination, to endorse him. A Ryan ally at the time told Yahoo News that the speaker “despises” Trump and “hates his guts.”

Ryan worked with the president to pass tax reform legislation, which nonetheless fell short of Ryan’s hope for a permanent restructuring of the tax code. Ryan has continued to criticize Trump at times, although he hasn’t opposed him on legislation.

The same Ryan ally lamented that the speaker’s retirement was “a casualty of the party surrendering its ground to a celebrity outsider.”

“Ryan is the kind of figure a party should strive to create: ideologically minded but temperamentally moderate, elected in a swing district, worked his way up in Congress, not a flashy performer. He is
bowing out to a different model of leadership,” the ally said.

But Ryan may have more freedom to speak his mind now that he is not running for reelection. One prominent conservative Trump critic expressed her hope that Ryan would do so.

More on Paul Ryan's career:

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Paul Ryan through his career
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Paul Ryan through his career
Speaker of the House Denis Hastert (L) administers the oath of office to Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin as his family looks on January 6, 1999 at the start of the 106th Congress. The oath is a recreation as the formal oath is administered to the entire congress as a body on the floor of the House. (photo by Rex Banner)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 12: Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks at a news conference in which House Republican leaders called for Permanent Tax Relief. (Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)
KRT US NEWS STORY SLUGGED: SOCIALSECURITY-DISCUSSION KRT PHOTOGRAPH BY GEORGE BRIDGES/KRT (April 14) Conversation on Social Security between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), shown, and William Novelli, head of AARP, April 5, 2005 (lde) 2005 (Photo by George Bridges/MCT/MCT via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 22: MEDICARE BRIEFING--Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., speaks at a Cato Institute briefing on Medicare reform in the Rayburn House Office Building. Tom Miller, director of Health Policy Studies at Cato, looks on. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 24: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) questions Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, during a hearing on Capitol Hill about the impact of recent market turmoil on the federal budget on September 24, 2008 in Washington, DC. Orszag reported that while the impact is currently unknown, it is likely to be substantially less than $700 billion. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - APRIL 27: House Budget Committee ranking member Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) delivers an opening statement during a conference committee meeting with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) (L) and House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-SC) in the U.S. Capitol April 27, 2009 in Washington, DC. House and Senate lawmakers have already struck a tentative deal on the FY2010 budget resolution and they hope to file a conference report after today's meeting. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - MARCH 19: (L-R) U.S. House Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) listen during a news conference on the health care legislation March 19, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The House will vote on the Health Care Reform Legislation on Sunday, March 21. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 5, 2011. U.S. House Republicans today unveiled a plan to overhaul the federal budget and slash the deficit in coming years by about three-quarters, with a $6-trillion cut in spending and 25 percent cap on tax rates. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) left, and moderator David Gregory, right, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, April 10, 2011. (Photo by William B. Plowman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 01: Republican Presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) jokes with U.S. Rep Paul Ryan (C) (R-WI) during a pancake brunch at Bluemound Gardens on April 1, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. With less than a week before the Wisconsin primary, Mitt Romney continues to campaign through the state. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is introduced before speaking about 'America's Enduring Promise,' and the federal budget, in a speech at Georgetown University April 26, 2012 in Washington, DC. During his speech, Ryan said that his proposed budget confronts the nation's growing $15 trillion debt before it impacts future generations of Americans. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
NORFOLK, VA - AUGUST 11: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (L) jokes with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) after announcing him as the 'next PRESIDENT of the United States' during an event announcing him as his running mate in front of the USS Wisconsin August 11, 2012 in Norfolk, Virginia. Ryan, a seven term congressman, is Chairman of the House Budget Committee and provides a strong contrast to the Obama administration on fiscal policy. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 14: Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Vice Presidential candidate, waves to the crowd after addressing the Values Voter Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Woodley Park. Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
NEWPORT NEWS, VA - SEPTEMBER 18: Republican vice presidential candidate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), pauses as he speaks during a campaign rally at Christopher Newport University September 18, 2012 in Newport News, Virginia. Ryan continued to campaign for the upcoming presidential election. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: Republican vice presidential candidate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) hugs waitress, Lourdes Alcerro, during a campaign stop at Versailles restaurant in the Little Havana neighborhood on September 22, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Ryan continues to campaign for votes across the country. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) and running-mate Paul Ryan share a laugh as they are introduced at a campaign rally September 25, 2012 at Dayton International Airport in Vandalia, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages)
Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, arrives at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Ryan said he'd be willing to run for speaker of the U.S. House if Republicans unify behind him now, end leadership crises and let him continue spending time with his family. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, center right, walks down the steps of the U.S. Capitol building following a vote in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. Ryan is under heavy pressure from fellow Republicans to run for U.S. House speaker after a hard-line faction forced Speaker John Boehner to resign and his top lieutenant to drop out of the race. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, walks to a meeting in the basement of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Ryan is set to meet with a group of House conservatives Tuesday as he weighs a potential run to replace Speaker John Boehner under pressure from fellow Republicans. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, center, talks to the media after walking out of the U.S. Capitol building following a vote in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. Ryan is under heavy pressure from fellow Republicans to run for U.S. House speaker after a hard-line faction forced Speaker John Boehner to resign and his top lieutenant to drop out of the race. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 20 - Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks at a news conference following a House Republican meeting, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Ryan is stating that he will run for speaker only if he receives enough GOP support by the end of the week. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, awaits the arrival of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin for a meeting at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, December 10, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 10: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) holds his weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill on December 10, 2015 in Washington, D.C. Paul Ryan spoke on topics including Donald Trump and the spending bill. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 15: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, (R-WI) speaks during a Politico interview at the Grand Hyatt on December 15, 2015 in Washington DC. Ryan was interviewed by Politico's Chief White House Correspondent Mike Allen during a Politico Playbook Breakfast. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L) holds ceremonial swearing-in for Representative-elect Ralph Norman (R-SC) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks after Senate Republicans unveiled their version of legislation that would replace Obamacare on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 22, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan introduces his new tax policy at the National Association of Manufacturers Summit in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan visits members of the Republican team prior to the Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park in Washington, U.S., June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan speaks to the press about President Donald Trump, former FBI Director James Comey and Russia investigations as Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R) looks on after a closed meeting of the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) listens as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with members of the Republican Congressional leadership at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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“He’s finally free of political chains. Time to put country over Party. He should remove [Rep. Devin] Nunes from Intel Committee, have a vote on Dream Act, move legislation to protect [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller, and denounce Trump’s unpresidential actions & words at every turn,” Ana Navarro said on Twitter.

But a Ryan ally said he was “skeptical” that Ryan would take a more confrontational stance. “Lame duck will probably make him more — not less — deferential to where his members are,” the Ryan ally said.

Ryan himself told reporters that he was “grateful” to Trump for giving Republicans the opportunity to pass big legislation like the tax cuts last year. He also said he does not think Trump will fire Mueller, a determination he said he had reached because he has “been talking to people at the White House.”

The speaker’s intention to retire also may be another signal of trouble ahead for Republicans, and for Trump.

“To attribute Ryan leaving to Trump rather than the impending blue wave is inaccurate,” tweeted Ben Shapiro, a popular conservative writer and speaker.

Shapiro also pointed out that Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are more responsible than Trump himself for the biggest conservative wins of the last year. “Republicans celebrating Ryan leaving as a win for Trump should consider that Trump only won the battle over attitude,” Shapiro said. “Every major policy achievement with the exception of the Jerusalem move is largely attributable to Ryan (tax cuts) and McConnell (Gorsuch).”

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