Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Speaker Johnson to meet with Trump, offers Marjorie Taylor Greene advisory role as own job teeters

by Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — His job on the line, House Speaker Mike Johnson is dashing to Florida to meet with Donald Trump this week and has offered far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene a seat on his own “kitchen cabinet” as he draws closer to the MAGA forces that now dominate the GOP.

The sudden moves Wednesday come as the House hit a standstill, thrown into chaos once again.

The House Republicans are tearing themselves apart, unable to work together to push party priorities through Congress yet watching their majority fritter away the days without a cohesive agenda or much to show for their 15 months in power.

Johnson was unable to pass a national security surveillance bill that was tanked by his own Republican majority shortly after Trump pushed them to “kill” it. But at the same time, the speaker was being warned off partnering with Democrats on that bill and others, including aid for Ukraine, or risk Greene calling a snap vote that could oust him from the speaker’s office.

It all leaves Johnson, just six months on the job, in a similar place as Kevin McCarthy, the previous House speaker who was unceremoniously voted out of the speaker’s chair last fall — the first in history to be toppled.

“We’re going to regroup and consider next steps,” Johnson, R-La., told reporters as he called an impromptu meeting of Republicans in the Capitol basement.

Heading into the November election, Johnson has hitched his party’s prospects and his own political survival to Trump, believing the presumed presidential nominee and his MAGA supporters will boost Republican lawmakers and ensure they keep control of the House from Democrats.

On Friday, Trump and Johnson will appear for a press conference on “election integrity” at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago club, according to a Trump campaign official.

They are expected to make a “joint announcement,” said another person familiar with the planning.

Once skeptical of Trump, Johnson became a key supporter. He led one of the main legal challenges to the 2020 election in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by the mob of Trump’s supporters trying to stop the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.

The issue of election integrity has been an obsession for Trump since he lost the 2020 election, even though elections are broadly secure and every state in the union certified its 2020 results that were sent to Congress on the day of the Capitol siege.

It’s unclear what the Trump-Johnson announcement will involve, but since becoming the House speaker Johnson has tried to keep a close relationship with Trump.

Johnson revived a House committee’s efforts to reinvestigate the findings of the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack as Trump calls for pardoning those involved in the bloody mob siege. More than 1,300 people have been charged in connection with the attack, as rioters fought police, stormed the Capitol and roamed the halls. Five people died in the siege and its immediate aftermath.

Trump and Johnson talk regularly, including on Tuesday night, as the speaker works to keep his own critics, particularly Greene, at bay.

A right-wing Republican from Georgia close to Trump, Greene has filed a motion to vacate the speaker, a procedural tool that allows a quick vote on his leadership, and now hangs over Johnson’s every move.

Johnson met with Greene for nearly an hour Wednesday at the Capitol, and she said the exchange was “direct and passionate.”

She is highly critical of Johnson, her grievances outlined in a five-page letter sent to colleagues this week, and in particular opposes helping Ukraine as it fights the Russian invasion, and warned Johnson not to bring an aid package for Ukraine to a vote.

Greene also rallied against extending provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, ahead of Wednesday’s failed vote, despite Johnson’s push to have it approved.

Just before the vote, Trump also weighed in on social media, telling Republicans to vote against it. “Kill FISA,” Trump wrote in all capital letters. Trump said the law was used to spy on him, but a former adviser to his 2016 presidential campaign was targeted over potential ties to Russia under a different section of the surveillance law. With a threadbare majority, Johnson can lose no more than one or so Republican on any vote, but nearly 20 bolted.

Johnson offered to give Greene a spot on a proposed “kitchen cabinet” of advisors to the speaker, she said after the nearly hour-long session.

But Greene told reporters she would “wait and see” about his offer, but she was more interested in how he handles several issues before Congress, particularly aid for Ukraine and the FISA vote.

“I explained to him, this isn’t personal,” she said. “But he has not done the job that we elected him to do.”

Greene has said that Johnson has thrown the Republican majority into “chaos,” pointing in particular to the government spending bills that he passed to prevent a federal shutdown over Republican objections.

“That is chaos for a Republican majority: sending his Republican colleagues and members back home to their districts, having to campaign on a Republican House that funded the Biden administration,” she said late Tuesday at the Capitol.

Other Republicans, even those who ousted McCarthy, have been cool to Greene’s effort to oust Johnson, unenthusiastic about going through the turmoil of trying to elect a new speaker.

Last fall, it took Republicans almost a month to replace McCarthy with Johnson, a spectacle that put the party’s dysfunction on display in rounds of failed votes and essentially shut down all other House business.

Greene has not publicly discussed when she may bring up the motion to vacate and told reporters she does not yet have a “red line” for bringing up the action.

Johnson’s planned meeting with Trump was first reported on CNN.

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