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Speaker Mike Johnson to meet with Donald Trump amid threats to his job

Speaker Mike Johnson to meet with Donald Trump amid threats to his job

With his job in jeopardy, House Speaker Mike Johnson paid a visit to Florida on Friday to meet with the one man who could save his precarious speakership: former President Donald Trump.

Johnson made his pilgrimage to Trump’s resort in Palm Beach as he faces an ongoing threat to his job from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the far-right Georgia firebrand and Trump loyalist who has ratcheted up attacks on him less than six months into the job.

Asked whether he supports Greene’s motion to depose Johnson, Trump, the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee, offered kind words for both.

“We’re getting along very well with the speaker. And I get along very well with Marjorie. We have a speaker who was voted in, and it was a complicated process and I think very — it’s not an easy situation for any speaker. I think he’s doing a very good job. He’s doing about as good as you’re going to do. And I’m sure that Marjorie understands that. She’s a very good friend of mine, and I know she has a lot of respect for the speaker.”

“I stand with the speaker,” Trump added later, saying it’s “unfortunate that people bring it up because right now, we have much bigger problems.”

The official topic of the meeting was bolstering “election integrity,” and Trump said in the afternoon that the two decided to meet to discuss measures focused on preventing noncitizens from voting. At the Mar-a-Lago resort, Johnson, R-La., said he was pleased to join the 2024 GOP nominee at “this beautiful facility.”

Voting by non-citizens is already illegal — and very rare. But Trump and many of his allies have falsely claimed that undocumented immigrants affected the 2020 election and warned they could do so again this year.

Standing by Trump, Johnson called for a vote on changes to federal voting laws.

“House Republicans are introducing a bill that will require proof of citizenship to vote. It seems like common sense,” he said, claiming there are “millions of illegals” in the U.S. and many of them who might try to vote illegally. “This could be a tight election — in our congressional races around the country. It could, if there are enough votes, affect the presidential election.”

Before the meeting, some Republicans said Trump’s support would help Johnson fend off the threats to his gavel.

“Obviously, it would help” Johnson if Trump reiterated his support for him, conservative Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C. said in an interview. Norman has criticized Johnson at times but doesn’t support the push to remove him.

“Trump has got a following; he’s our nominee. … It’s now Trump and Biden — there is no other choice. So it’s good that they’re getting together,” Norman continued, saying he expects Trump to impress upon Johnson that his No. 1 focus should be passing new restrictions on immigration.

Asked what Johnson has to gain by visiting Trump, Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., a Johnson critic, said, “President Trump has been a great negotiator, but also he has a lot of good insight into what the American people want.” She said she was looking forward to their joint announcement.

Johnson’s visit to Palm Beach came just three days before Trump is set to stand trial in New York, where he is accused of falsifying business records in connection with hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Trump told reporters Friday that he would testify: “Yeah. I would testify, absolutely. It’s a scam. It’s a scam. That’s not a trial.”

“Jury selection is largely luck. It depends who you get,” he added. “I’m testifying — I tell the truth. All I can do is tell the truth. And the truth is that there’s no case. They have no case.”

It was the first in-person meeting between the two men since Trump became the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee. Such a meeting wouldn’t be unusual between a GOP speaker and a presidential nominee as the party unifies behind its candidate. But it comes exactly three weeks after Greene filed her motion to topple Johnson and as other conservatives grumble about his handling of a host of thorny matters.

Fueling the threats to Johnson’s job are two contentious issues on which he is boxed in: approving aid to Ukraine and renewing a warrantless surveillance program under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The FISA bill passed Friday. In both cases, Johnson has faced pressure from his party’s committee leaders, centrist Republicans and the Senate to act — against the wishes of a band of hard-right members who oppose both issues.

Marjorie Taylor Greene’s motion to vacate

Greene, who released her motion to remove Johnson last month before a two-week House recess, hasn’t triggered it yet. If she does, it would require a vote within two legislative days. Upon the House’s return, and despite pleas from colleagues to stand down, she has only ratcheted up her attacks on Johnson.

Greene issued her threat over the sweeping government funding bill that passed last month, claiming Johnson gave President Joe Biden and the Democrats “everything they wanted” in the spending package. (Johnson negotiated the bill, which included various conservative provisions, with the Democratic-controlled Senate and White House.)

“I will not tolerate our elected Republican Speaker Mike Johnson serving the Democrats and the Biden administration and helping them achieve their policies that are destroying our country. He is throwing our own razor-thin majority into chaos by not serving his own GOP conference that elected him,” Greene wrote in a letter to colleagues this week, while calling on Johnson not to fund aid to Ukraine or renew Section 702 without a new “warrant requirement.”

No other Republicans have said they would vote for Greene’s motion to vacate, and Greene downplayed the meeting Friday, saying, “President Trump meets with people all the time.”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., a Johnson ally and Trump supporter, said he didn’t think the threat to the speaker was real: “Johnson is on very strong footing here, despite all the noise.”

And some Democrats have said they’d vote to protect Johnson if Republicans seek to oust him for passing Ukraine aid. Democratic leaders, who unified the conference last fall against protecting then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California amid a revolt by a small number of GOP members, are keeping that door open with Johnson.

“If the speaker were to do the right thing and allow the House to work its will with an up-or-down vote on the national security bill, then I believe there are a reasonable number of Democrats who would not want to see the speaker fall as a result of doing the right thing,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told reporters Thursday, adding that he was making an “observation, not a declaration, because we have to have a conversation.”

Friday’s meeting is reminiscent of McCarthy’s flight to Mar-a-Lago to make amends with Trump just weeks after McCarthy publicly castigated him for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol. After Republicans took back control of the House, Trump endorsed McCarthy for speaker and helped him win the gavel amid a weeklong stalemate in early 2023.

But last fall, when Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a Trump ally, forced a vote to overthrow McCarthy, Trump stayed silent and made no effort to save him.

Johnson’s fate may be different given his role in Trump’s efforts to overturn Biden’s 2020 election victory. He led the amicus brief signed by more than 100 House Republicans that backed a Texas lawsuit seeking to invalidate the election results in four swing states Biden carried.

Sahil Kapur

Sahil Kapur is a senior national political reporter for NBC News.

Scott Wong

Scott Wong is a senior congressional reporter for NBC News.

Kyle Stewart

and

Lori Rampani

contributed

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