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Trump to Host Speaker Johnson          04/12 06:07


   PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- House Speaker Mike Johnson is making a campaign 
pilgrimage to visit Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, a rite of passage as the 
embattled Republican leader positions himself, and his GOP majority, 
side-by-side with the indicted ex-president.

   The two are planning a joint announcement on election integrity ahead of 
November, but the trip itself is significant for both. Johnson needs Trump to 
temper hard-line Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's threats to evict him from 
office. And Trump benefits from the imprimatur of official Washington dashing 
to Florida to embrace his comeback bid for the White House and his tangled 
election lies.

   "It is the symbolism," said Charlie Sykes, a conservative commentator and 
frequent Trump critic.

   "There was a time when the Speaker of the House of Representatives was a 
dominant figure in American politics," he said. "Look where we are now, where 
he comes hat in hand to Mar-a-Lago."

   Having the House speaker and the presidential contender align for the 
campaign season is not in itself surprising or even unexpected, a typical 
arrangement as the party builds a coordinated effort of resources and proposals 
to present to voters in the fall.

   But in the Trump era, the sojourns by Republican leaders to his private club 
in Palm Beach, Florida, have become defining moments, underscoring the lopsided 
partnership as the former president commandeers the party in sometimes 
humiliating displays of power.

   Such was the case when Kevin McCarthy, then the House GOP leader, trekked to 
Mar-a-Lago after having been critical of the defeated president after the Jan. 
6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. A cheery photo was posted afterward, a sign of 
their mending relationship.

   Johnson proposed the idea of coming to Mar-a-Lago weeks before Greene filed 
her motion to vacate him from the speaker's office. The visit comes just days 
before the former president's criminal trial on hush money charges gets 
underway next week in New York City.

   The trip shows the fragility of the speaker's grip on the gavel, just six 
months on the job since replacing the ousted McCarthy, but also his evolving 
grasp of the politics of the Trump era.

   Johnson of Louisiana understands he needs Trump's backing to conduct almost 
any business in the House -- including his next big priority, providing U.S. 
aid to Ukraine to fight Russia's invasion.

   The speaker's own political livelihood depends on support -- or at least not 
opposition -- from the "Make America Great Again" Republicans who are aligned 
with Trump but creating much of the House dysfunction that has ground work to a 

   Johnson commands the narrowest majority in modern times and a single quip 
from the former president can derail legislation. He was once a Trump skeptic, 
but the two men now talk frequently, including earlier this week.

   Even still, Trump urged Republicans to "kill" a national security 
surveillance bill that Johnson had personally worked to pass, contributing to a 
sudden defeat that sent the House spiraling this week into crisis. It was 
expected to try again to pass the bill Friday before Johnson departs for 

   In a daring move, the speaker is working both sides to help Ukraine, talking 
directly to the White House on the national security package that is at risk of 
collapse with Trump's opposition. Greene is warning of a snap vote to oust 
Johnson from leadership if he allows any U.S. assistance to flow to the 
overseas ally.

   "The funding of Ukraine must end," Greene said she told Johnson in a private 
meeting this week.

   On the issue of election integrity, though, Johnson, who led one of the main 
legal challenges to the 2020 election won by Joe Biden, appears to be more 
aligned with Trump.

   Trump continues to insist the 2020 election was marred by fraud, even though 
no evidence has emerged in the last four years to support his claims and every 
state in the nation certified their results as valid.

   As he runs to reclaim the White House, Trump has essentially taken over the 
Republican National Committee, turning the campaign apparatus toward his 
priorities. He supported Michael Whatley to lead the RNC, which created a new 
"Election Integrity Division" and says it is working to hire thousands of 
lawyers across the country.

   At Friday's event they are expected to promote ideas to prevent noncitizens 
from voting, even though it's already a federal felony for a noncitizen to cast 
a ballot in a federal election. There's no evidence of significant numbers of 
immigrants violating that law by casting illegal ballots.

   Some liberal cities like San Francisco have begun to allow noncitizens to 
vote in a few local elections, leading Republicans to argue there need to be 
even more laws forbidding it in federal elections.

   Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said he was supportive of those proposals. "How do 
you ensure that noncitizens are not voting? That's that's what this is all 

   With his majority shrinking due to early retirements and departures, Johnson 
is operating as a speaker in name only. But the more he depends on Democrats to 
provide the votes needed to pass substantial legislation, including last 
month's bills to keep the government from shutting down, the deeper trouble he 
courts from the MAGA Republicans.

   Trump could help Johnson by promoting the House's legislative priorities or, 
at least, not torpedoing them. But that seems increasingly uncertain as the 
presumed presidential nominee leads the GOP in a different direction on both 
domestic and foreign policy priorities.

   Tired of the infighting and wary of another dragged-out brawl like the 
monthlong slugfest to replace McCarthy, few Republicans are backing Greene's 
effort to remove Johnson, for now.

   "Marjorie's actions are horrific," said Rep. Max Miller, R-Ohio, a former 
Trump administration official. "They are childish. They are petulant. They have 
no place here in this body."

   But if Trump signals otherwise, that could all change.

   Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker emeritus, said this week on "The 
Axe Files" podcast: "The Republicans wanted Donald Trump for speaker. And they 
got him."

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