Donald Trump, Mike Johnson to talk on election integrity after FISA vote

Donald Trump, Mike Johnson to talk on election integrity after FISA vote


Former president Donald Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) are appearing together at a news conference Friday for their first time since Johnson became speaker, coinciding with a roiling effort to oust him from his position led by one of Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress.

The event comes on the heels of another revolt this week by hard-right House Republicans, who tanked a procedural vote on key intelligence-gathering legislation as a warning shot to the speaker. (The bill eventually passed the House on Friday.)

Johnson is in possibly the most precarious stretch of his five-month speakership, as he seeks to negotiate a national security package with funding for Ukraine and other foreign allies, while fending off a challenge to his job from Rep. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). Trump has not weighed in on Greene’s push to remove the Louisiana Republican.

Friday’s meeting with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida was not spurred by Greene’s threat, according to two people familiar with the plans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about their relationship. Instead, Trump and Johnson have found common ground on two issues that unite them: election integrity and border security. They decided to unveil a new legislative effort together during Johnson’s already scheduled visit to Mar-a-Lago. Trump and Johnson met privately before speaking to reporters.

Johnson and Trump are expected to speak about noncitizen voting. It is already illegal for noncitizens to vote in federal elections, and there are few documented cases of noncitizens voting.

Johnson began forming a relationship with Trump in early 2020 after Johnson was chosen to serve on the White House defense team in the president’s first Senate impeachment trial, according to the people familiar with the relationship. Later that year, Johnson recruited 125 House Republicans to sign on to a legal brief that asked the Supreme Court to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election wins in four key states. Johnson also leaned on his credentials as a constitutional lawyer to help colleagues sharpen their arguments against certifying the election on Jan. 6, 2021.

In a statement ahead of Friday’s news conference, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), the former chairman of the House select committee that investigated the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, said that the “sham event at Trump’s country club should remind the American people of a dangerous truth: Donald Trump is a threat to our democracy and a danger to our Constitution.”

Johnson’s ongoing support of Trump — he has repeatedly described himself as a MAGA Republican — earned him the former president’s backing when he ran for speaker after the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). After tanking a speakership bid by Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Trump posted on social media that while he was not going to formally choose among the candidates in the race, his “strong SUGGESTION is to go with the leading candidate, Mike Johnson.”

Since becoming speaker, Johnson has visited Mar-a-Lago multiple times for private meetings and fundraisers.

Johnson and Trump are often in touch, with both men trading notes from their vantage points at the top of Republican politics, according to the people familiar with the relationship. The former president keeps the speaker up to speed on the latest polls in states and developments in his campaign, while Johnson informs Trump about what is happening in the House.

It’s unclear whether Trump will speak Friday in support of Johnson’s handling of the ideologically fractious House Republican conference. Johnson is facing numerous obstacles this month, starting with the false start in reauthorizing a part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which has divided privacy and national security hawks in the conference.

After Trump posted on social media that House Republicans should “KILL FISA,” several far-right lawmakers — many of whom had already decided to vote against the measure — used a procedural hurdle Wednesday to temporarily prevent debate on the measure. Asked whether Trump’s interference was hurtful for the legislative process, Johnson said: “It’s never helpful for the majority party to take down a rule. What it does, ultimately of course, is it weakens our hands with the Senate and the White House.”

The bill passed Friday after Johnson winnowed the reauthorization period from five years to two, arguing that far-right members can make the changes they want to the surveillance provision when Trump is reelected and House Republicans keep the majority — two outcomes that are not guaranteed.

Far-right members are also keeping a watchful eye on how Johnson handles Ukraine funding. Greene has said she would move to oust him from the speakership if he puts such a bill on the House floor.

“I never speak for [Trump] or say what he should or shouldn’t do,” Greene said Friday. “He’s the leader of the party. He is our Republican presidential candidate that I’m supporting and trying to help win in November.”

Republican speakers of the House have had to keep Trump close. McCarthy began forming a close relationship with Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign, and his allegiance to Trump earned him the nickname “My Kevin.” McCarthy often leveraged that alliance for his political ambitions, frequently telling Trump to hold off endorsing more extreme candidates in swing districts, which helped Republicans win the majority in the 2022 midterms.

But their relationship ebbed and flowed over the years. The most obvious break and reconciliation happened after McCarthy blamed the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol on Trump, but he later went to Mar-a-Lago to make up. Though McCarthy often followed Trump’s lead, the former president stayed on the sidelines when McCarthy was under fire by far-right Republicans in the conference last year, ultimately resulting in Trump not defending him ahead of his ouster from the speakership.

Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.


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