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Trump to Host Speaker Mike Johnson

Friday, 12 April 2024 07:26 AM EDT

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., is making a campaign pilgrimage to visit former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, a rite of passage as the embattled Republican leader positions himself, and his GOP majority, side-by-side with Trump.

The two are planning a joint announcement on election integrity ahead of November, but the trip itself is significant for both. Johnson needs Trump to temper hard-line Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's threats to evict him from office. And Trump benefits from the imprimatur of official Washington dashing to Florida to embrace his comeback bid for the White House.

"It is the symbolism," said Charlie Sykes, a conservative commentator and frequent Trump critic.

"There was a time when the Speaker of the House of Representatives was a dominant figure in American politics," he said. "Look where we are now, where he comes hat in hand to Mar-a-Lago."

Having the House speaker and the presidential contender align for the campaign season is not in itself surprising or even unexpected, a typical arrangement as the party builds a coordinated effort of resources and proposals to present to voters in the fall.

But in the Trump era, the sojourns by Republican leaders to his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, have become defining moments.

Kevin McCarthy, when he was the House GOP leader, went to Mar-a-Lago after having been critical of the defeated president after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. A cheery photo was posted afterward, a sign of their mending relationship.

Johnson proposed the idea of coming to Mar-a-Lago weeks before Greene filed her motion to vacate him from the speaker's office. The visit comes just days before the former president’s criminal trial gets underway next week in New York City.

Johnson understands he needs Trump's backing to conduct almost any business in the House — including his next big priority, providing U.S. aid to Ukraine to fight Russia’s invasion.

The speaker's own political livelihood depends on support — or at least not opposition — from Republicans who are aligned with Trump.

Johnson commands the narrowest majority in modern times and a single remark from the former president can derail legislation.

Trump urged Republicans to "kill" a national security surveillance bill that Johnson had worked to pass, contributing to a sudden defeat that sent the House spiraling this week. It was expected to try again to pass the bill Friday before Johnson departs for Florida.

In a daring move, the speaker is working both sides to help Ukraine, talking directly to the White House on the national security package that is at risk of collapse with Trump's opposition. Greene is warning of a snap vote to oust Johnson from leadership if he allows any U.S. assistance to flow to the overseas ally.

"The funding of Ukraine must end," Greene said she told Johnson in a private meeting this week.

On the issue of election integrity, though, Johnson, who led one of the main legal challenges to the 2020 election won by Joe Biden, appears to be more aligned with Trump.

As he runs to reclaim the White House, Trump essentially has taken over the Republican National Committee, turning the campaign apparatus toward his priorities. He supported Michael Whatley to lead the RNC, which created a new "Election Integrity Division" and says it is working to hire thousands of lawyers across the country.

At Friday's event they are expected to promote ideas to prevent noncitizens from voting, even though it's already a federal felony for a noncitizen to cast a ballot in a federal election.

Some liberal cities, such as San Francisco, have begun to allow noncitizens to vote in a few local elections, leading Republicans to argue there need to be even more laws forbidding it in federal elections.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said he was supportive of those proposals. "How do you ensure that noncitizens are not voting? That's, that’s what this is all about."

With his majority shrinking due to early retirements and departures, Johnson is operating as a speaker in name only. But the more he depends on Democrats to provide the votes needed to pass substantial legislation, including last month's bills to keep the government from shutting down, the deeper trouble he courts from the MAGA Republicans.

Trump could help Johnson by promoting the House's legislative priorities or, at least, not torpedoing them. But that seems increasingly uncertain as the presumed presidential nominee leads the GOP in a different direction on both domestic and foreign policy priorities.

Tired of the infighting and wary of another dragged-out brawl like the monthlong slugfest to replace McCarthy, few Republicans are backing Greene's effort to remove Johnson, for now.

"Marjorie’s actions are horrific," said Rep. Max Miller, R-Ohio, a former Trump administration official. "They are childish. They are petulant. They have no place here in this body.”

But if Trump signals otherwise, that could all change.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., is making a campaign pilgrimage to visit former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, a rite of passage as the embattled Republican leader positions himself, and his GOP majority, side-by-side with the ex-president.
trump, speaker, johnson, mar-a-lago, house, congress
Friday, 12 April 2024 07:26 AM
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