House Republicans Vie For Donald Trump’s Love Amid Speaker Drama

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) used his weekly press conference on Tuesday to make a speech lamenting the various criminal cases against former President Donald Trump, the presumptive 2024 Republican nominee.

“These cases are a coordinated political attack, plain and simple,” Johnson said, describing Trump’s hush money trial in Manhattan as an effort to keep him from campaigning.

“It is a borderline criminal conspiracy and the American people see right through [it],” Johnson said. “President Trump has done nothing wrong here and he continues to be the target of endless lawfare. It has to stop.”

Johnson’s recitation of Trump’s grievances came as he fends off a threat to his speakership led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), the self-described “biggest supporter of President Trump” on Capitol Hill. Both sides of the debate are invoking their party’s de facto leader in part to cover for their own weaknesses — few Republicans are eager to join in Greene’s antics, while Johnson only won the job because he hadn’t been around long enough to make enemies among his colleagues.

As for Trump, it’s not clear how much he really cares. He did very little to help his close ally, former Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), hold on to the speakership last October. He later endorsed Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) for the job, but did little to help him actually secure it.

Greene has been threatening for weeks to force the House to hold a no-confidence vote against Johnson for not fighting harder against Democrats. So far, she has hesitated to pull the trigger. She met with Johnson in his office for almost two hours on Monday, with another meeting planned for Tuesday.

In response to a question about his future as a Republican leader, Johnson made sure to note that Trump has publicly backed him. He also mentioned that the two had recently hung out, no big deal.

“I’m glad to have the support of President Trump. I was down with him most recently this weekend,” Johnson said, referring to his attendance at a Republican National Committee fundraiser at Trump’s club in Florida.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), one of the two Republicans backing Greene, said that actually, Trump might not love Johnson as much as Johnson thinks.

“I think you’re overestimating the degree to which Trump is willing to defend Mike Johnson,” Massie told reporters on Tuesday. Johnson’s support from Democrats ― who have vowed to vote against Greene’s resolution ― will erode his support from Republicans, according to Massie.

“This is a dynamic situation, and support on the Democrat side is growing, support on the Republican side is weakening,” Massie said.

When Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) forced a no-confidence vote against Johnson’s predecessor in the speaker’s office all Democrats joined Gaetz and seven other Republicans in voting to throw McCarthy out.

Trump spoke to Greene about her anti-Johnson efforts and didn’t tell her to drop it, multiple sources told CNN on Tuesday. However, Trump did suggest that her so-called “motion to vacate” might be a distraction.

Gaetz, who opposes the current efforts to oust the speaker, chimed in Tuesday to say that when he was gunning for McCarthy last fall, Trump was more supportive.

“I recall discussing the [motion to vacate] with President Trump in 2023,” Gaetz wrote on social media, saying that Trump told him, “Do what you have to do.”

Asked about Trump’s apparent opposition to her attacks on Johnson last week, Greene whipped out a red “MAGA” cap.

“I’m the biggest supporter of President Trump, and that’s why I proudly wear this hat,” Greene said.