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The fortunate son from a powerful Washington family, Ryan is the nephew of an influential U.S. senator, and the great-great grandson of President Franklin Pierce (though in reality President Franklin Pierce had no children who survived to adulthood). Tension builds between him and the increasingly agitated Josh when the latter discovers that Ryan attended Harvard, his alma mater. Ryan attempts to use the connection as a bonding experience but Josh describes him as one of the popular rich kids who used to pick on him.
Nonetheless, Ryan does what he can to help out his overstressed boss. In the episode Han, Josh asks Ryan to sit in on a meeting with a Democratic congressman who has threatened to vote against Bob Russell, President Bartlet's choice to replace the disgraced former Vice President John Hoynes. The meeting ends with Josh loudly berating the congressman for being disloyal, and the congressman angrily storming out. Ryan quietly calls the congressman back, and apparently persuades him to vote with his party. He says nothing when Josh gets the credit for the congressman's vote.
Later in the season, Josh loses credibility with Congress after a Democratic senator from Idaho decides to join the Republican Party, citing Josh's strong-armed tactics as one of the reasons. In the episode Disaster Relief, Ryan follows Josh (at Donna's urging) to a restaurant for a scheduled business dinner with a member of Congress. When the congressman calls to cancel, as expected, Ryan sits down with Josh so it doesn't look like he was just stood up.
In Full Disclosure, Josh asks Ryan to help steer a meeting with the base closure commission, but the intern annoys nearly everyone present with a proposal to shut down a base in a key congressman's district. When Josh pulls Ryan out of the meeting to scold him, Ryan asks him to make it look like he's being fired, so Josh will get the credit for saving the congressman's base.
Ryan did not return the next season, as Bradford left the show to focus on his film career. The show explains that Ryan took a job as the legislative director for a pro-labor congressman.