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News / Nation & World

Trump backs embattled Speaker Johnson

La. lawmaker, GOP candidate meet at Mar-a-Lago in Fla.

By Associated Press
Published: April 14, 2024, 12:26pm

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump offered a political lifeline Friday to House Speaker Mike Johnson, saying the beleaguered GOP leader is doing a “very good job” and tamping down the far-right forces led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene trying to oust him from office.

Trump and Johnson appeared at the ex-president’s Mar-a-Lago club, a rite of passage for the new House leader as he hitches himself, and his GOP majority, to the indicted Republican Party leader ahead of November’s election.

“I stand with the speaker,” Trump said at an evening press conference at his gilded private club.

Trump said he thinks Johnson, of Louisiana, is “doing a very good job —he’s doing about as good as you’re going to do.”

“We’re getting along very well with the speaker — and I get along very well with Marjorie,” Trump said.

But Trump flashed some criticism over efforts to oust the speaker, calling it “unfortunate” and saying there are “much bigger problems” right now.

The visit was arranged as a joint announcement on new House legislation to require proof of citizenship for voting, but the trip itself is significant for both. Johnson needed Trump to temper hard-line 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 and his tangled election lies.

“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.”

While the moment captured the fragility of the speaker’s grip on the gavel, just six months into the job, it also put on display his evolving grasp of Trump-era politics as the Republicans in Congress align with the “Make America Great Again” movement powering the former president’s re-election bid.

Johnson and Trump underscored their alliance Friday by using similar wording to describe one part of their campaign strategy — pummeling President Joe Biden with alarmist language over what Republicans claim is a “migrant invasion.”

By linking the surge of migrants coming to the U.S. with the upcoming election, Trump and Johnson raised the specter of noncitizens voting, even though it’s already a federal felony for a noncitizen to vote in a federal election and exceedingly rare.

Trump revived pressure on Biden to “close the border” as the speaker nodded along.