Does Donald Trump want to be speaker of the House?
It’s a question that has emerged in the chaotic afterglow of a collection of House conservatives succeeding in ousting House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. So far, the former president has done little to downplay the political intrigue.
“A lot of people have been calling me about speaker,” Trump said Wednesday morning outside a New York City courthouse for the third day of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ $250 million civil fraud trial against him. “All I can say is we will do whatever is best for the country and other Republican Party and people.”
He added, however, that he is focused on winning back the presidency.
Trump’s name was immediately floated by supporters after the successful vote to depose McCarthy, and a Trump adviser Tuesday night told NBC News that Republican members of the House had already been asking Trump to serve as an interim speaker.
“Members are trying to talk to the President about leading as the House works it out long term,” the adviser said in an email.
The role of House speaker has importance outside of Congress; that person is second in the presidential line of succession just behind the vice president.
And Trump, of course, is not a member of Congress. But the Constitution doesn’t explicitly say that the speaker needs to be serving in the House, although so far, every one has been. That omission has occasionally led to speculation that there could be a nonmember leader of the House.
In the past, people including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and the late former Secretary of State Colin Powell have all been floated as possibilities. (While there have been votes for nonmembers, that push has never gone very far.)
Trump’s name being in the mix has already led to some of his biggest congressional supporters being put on the spot. Last night on Fox News’ Sean Hannity show, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan tried to avoid questions about Trump becoming an “interim” speaker by repeatedly saying he wanted him to again become president. Hannity kept pressing the point, and Jordan eventually said he wants Trump “at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but if he wants to be speaker, that’s fine too.”
Jordan on Wednesday became the first House Republican to officially announce that he is running for speaker.
Trump’s legal woes, which include two federal indictments, could also play a role in his thought process. Trump has frequently pointed to his position as a presidential candidate as a reason the Justice Department should not be prosecuting him, including that he lacks the time to attend a trial or participate in his own defense. Should he be named speaker of the House, Trump could again try to invoke his position to argue that his trial should be delayed.
There are some Republicans who also think the idea is a bit of a political fever dream because Trump would be unable to cobble together the 218 votes needed to win a speaker’s race.
“Trump ain’t going to do it because all he cares about is winning, and his path to 218 votes is unlikely if not impossible,” said a Republican operative directly involved in the speaker’s race.
For those who see Trump becoming speaker as far-fetched, a long line of ambitious House Republicans are already lining up and courting votes.
Aside from Jordan, chief among them is Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., has already met with the 25-person Texas Republican congressional delegation, and he is expected to have the support of Rep. Vern Buchanan, the chair of Florida’s 20-person GOP congressional delegation. Buchanan is a close Scalise ally after getting his support during a failed bid to become Ways and Means chairman.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican who played a leading role in removing McCarthy, also told reporters Tuesday that Scalise is “the type of person that I could see myself supporting.”
Other potential candidates include Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn.; Rep. Garret Graves, R-La.; and House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-NY.
The current rules of the Republican House conference actually prohibit someone charged with a felony from serving in leadership. Trump is facing dozens of felony charges.
Matt Dixon is a senior national politics reporter for NBC News, based in Florida.