How Donald Trump could ride to Mike Johnson's rescue

Last updated on April 11, 2024

There’s been plenty of speculation about how Democrats might save Speaker Mike Johnson’s gavel as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) threatens to oust him.

The better bet right now is that if anyone comes to Johnson’s rescue, it will be the most powerful Republican around.

Former president Donald Trump is set to appear with Johnson at an “election integrity” event at his Mar-a-Lago resort Friday — a joint event that hints at a burgeoning but tentative alliance between the two powerful Republicans.

The upshot: Trump world isn’t happy with Greene’s threat to throw the House GOP into chaos once again. There’s a fear that an election-year speakership battle will undercut the party’s goals of keeping the House and flipping the White House and Senate.

“One hundred percent distraction. Unwanted. And just stupid,” one Trump insider said Wednesday night. “We’re not going to get trapped into this cycle of bullshit that comes out of members of the House.”

“It’s fair to say we don’t think she’s being constructive,” another person close with Trump said about Greene. “The internal fighting is not appreciated by [Trump].”

Those around the former president are growing weary of the constant motion-to-vacate threats, that person added: “It’s no way to run a party; it’s no way to run a House. You can’t work in that environment.”

The larger concern is that Johnson’s removal would create a power vacuum at a time when unity is essential and coordination between the Trump campaign and the speaker’s political operations is starting to tighten.

For one, senior Trump adviser Chris LaCivita has been in close touch with Billy Constangy, Johnson’s top political operative who has worked alongside LaCivita in the past. Hayden Haynes, Johnson’s chief of staff, met recently with members of Trump’s team, and there’s talk about launching regular meetings between the Trump campaign and Johnson’s operation, as well as the RNC, NRCC and NRSC.

Even if Greene’s effort is foiled, most likely with Democratic help, there’s a clear understanding that Johnson’s position in the party would be greatly hobbled — and that a weakened speaker means a weakened GOP apparatus.

As for the two principals: Greene’s threats are coming just as Trump and Johnson themselves are starting to develop a rapport — engaging in more frequent phone calls, for one, and now putting a joint event on the books.

Johnson’s office pitched Friday’s event to Trump’s team, no doubt mindful of how it might shore up the speaker’s precarious position. But the event is being viewed as a win by both camps.

Johnson gets to stand onstage with the King of MAGA himself right as he faces a hard-right revolt, while Trump gets the country’s highest-ranking Republican to lend credence to his voting concerns as many in the GOP beg him to move past the 2020 election.

Don’t expect a full-on love-fest, though. For one, Trump is very close with Greene, and it’s unlikely he’ll publicly criticize her or even necessarily give Johnson’s speakership a full-throated blessing.

An even bigger issue is that Johnson still has a legislative minefield to navigate, and Trump’s opinion of the embattled speaker could certainly change, his inner circle admits.

Here are a few dynamics to keep an eye on:

— Spy powers: Trump encouraged Republicans Wednesday to “KILL FISA,” arguing on Truth Social that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was used against him during his first campaign. Hours later, 19 House Republicans voted to block a reauthorization of a key part of that law over Johnson’s objections.

But Trump’s inner circle said Johnson passing a FISA reauthorization wouldn’t necessarily sour their relationship. For one thing, the former president actually confused two different parts of the sprawling spy law.

— Ukraine aid: House Republicans have sought to convince Trump to either endorse Johnson’s appropach to Ukraine assistance or stay out of the debate altogether. If Trump publicly opposes Ukraine aid and Johnson still moves forward, that would almost certainly prompt Greene to trigger the motion to vacate.

But it’s still unclear what Trump will do. The two men, we’re told, are going to have some one-on-one time to discuss this issue, among others, tomorrow ahead of the afternoon event.

— The personal bond: While Johnson has always been a Trump supporter, he doesn’t have the kind of back-slapping relationship his predecessor Kevin McCarthy enjoyed with the former president.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Johnson. Some in Trump’s inner circle grew frustrated with McCarthy, believing he was too loose in making promises that he could not or would not fulfill. The reserved and businesslike Johnson hasn’t found himself in the same position.

In fact, those around Trump see Johnson as entirely supportive of their efforts to flip the White House and think the two men can work together well in the coming months. But tomorrow’s event will be a test: With the pair likely to take questions from reporters, it will be an audition of sorts where thorny issues from Ukraine to the 2020 election to abortion could complicate things fast.

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