Skip to content
House Speaker Mike Johnson Gets Political Cover From Donald Trump
Go to my account

House Speaker Mike Johnson Gets Political Cover From Donald Trump

Plus: Don’t expect the former president to face backlash from pro-life leaders for his turn on abortion.

Happy Monday! And join us in marveling at the surprise that is Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, whose image transformation from shabbily dressed Sandersista to shabbily dressed defender of Israel against his party’s far-left flank is something to behold.

Up to Speed

  • House Speaker Mike Johnson said on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures that he will attempt again this week to pass aid to Israel in the wake of Iran’s Saturday attack on the Jewish state. Johnson hinted—though he did not say for certain—that the package could include aid for Ukraine as well. House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner said on NBC’s Meet the Press that Ukraine aid would likely come up for a vote in the House this week, while House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul said on CBS’s Face the Nation he would speak to Johnson Sunday night about a vote for the aid.
  • Several major news organizations signed on to a joint statement calling for both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump to commit to debating each other when the time comes. Their statement comes days after Trump’s campaign asked the Bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates to add more contests between the two candidates and schedule the first debates sooner than it had originally planned. Trump did not participate in any GOP primary debates, and Biden has not committed to debating Trump during the general election.
  • New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said Sunday on ABC’s This Week that he would still support Trump even if the presumptive GOP nominee were convicted in one of his criminal trials. Sununu added that he supports the former president despite his belief that Trump’s actions “absolutely contributed” to the January 6 “insurrection,” saying his support was more about enacting Republican policies than Trump himself. Sununu backed Nikki Haley in the Republican primary, saying he was “tired of losers,” but he also said back in September—prior to endorsing Haley—he would vote for Trump if he were to win the nomination.
  • Speaking of Haley, the Hudson Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank focused largely on foreign policy and national defense, announced Monday that the former governor and United Nations ambassador would be its Walter P. Stern chair. She is far from the first former Trump administration official to join the conservative institution, as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Attorney General Bill Barr, and former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao are all fellows there.
  • Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin raised more than $5.4 million in the first quarter of 2024, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Monday. Meanwhile, businessman Eric Hovde, her likely Republican opponent, raised just more than $1 million in the same period (though he did not declare his candidacy until late February), according to a Federal Election Commission filing today. Baldwin’s haul is yet another example of Democrats’ substantial fundraising gains, this time in a race that could determine control of the Senate.

Mike Johnson Finds Political Shelter at Mar-a-Lago

Former President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson hold a press conference at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate on April 12, 2024, in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson hold a press conference at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate on April 12, 2024, in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Has House Speaker Mike Johnson staved off his political execution? No victory is permanent in this GOP conference, but Johnson did a lot to neutralize his main internal opponent at the moment, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, with a well-timed, well-publicized visit with every House Republican’s favorite figurehead: former President Donald Trump.

Following Friday’s nailbiter vote to reauthorize a provision of the federal government’s foreign surveillance law known as FISA, Johnson flew to Mar-a-Lago for a planned press conference with Trump. The two GOP leaders were ostensibly coming together to announce Johnson’s plan to hold a vote on a bill to prevent non-citizens from voting (which happens rarely and is already illegal). But Johnson also got the benefit of a side-by-side photo op with the presumptive GOP nominee and a verbal vote of confidence in his speakership.

“I stand with the speaker,” Trump said Friday evening, adding to his earlier comment that he believes Johnson is “doing a very good job. He’s doing about as good as you’re going to do.”

The moment of unity came as Greene, the two-term Georgia Republican, has remained relentless in her criticism of Johnson on a variety of issues, from a deal to temporarily fund the government to his professed interest in pursuing new Ukraine aid. Last month she filed a motion to vacate the chair, a procedural move to oust a speaker of the House, though she has not pushed for a vote on the floor. Greene has said she considers the motion a “warning” to Johnson, and with such a narrow Republican majority—getting smaller at the end of the week with the planned resignation of Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin—the speaker cannot afford to lose the support of more than two or three of his own members.

The success of his trip to Mar-a-Lago will depend on how much Trump’s kind words shore up Johnson’s support. One House GOP aide told The Dispatch that the show of support from Trump “definitely helps” Johnson, particularly after Johnson faced some Republican resistance to the surveillance law reauthorization. 

And Greene could struggle to find allies in her crusade against Johnson, given her unpopularity even with her ideological allies (she was reportedly booted from the House Freedom Caucus last year). House Republicans are already weary of the speakership drama after starting the term with a multi-ballot vote to elect Rep. Kevin McCarthy speaker in January 2023, only to see McCarthy ousted last fall. 

Members in both wings of the GOP conference may also recognize that the conservative Johnson may be the best speaker they can get before November’s elections. The moderate conservatives in districts Joe Biden won fear the conference could back someone more strident if Johnson is ousted, while hard-right members of the House Freedom Caucus fear their centrist colleagues may do the unthinkable and join with Democrats to elect a compromise speaker.

This standoff within the conference may be what keeps Johnson in the speaker’s chair, along with this exceedingly helpful assist from Trump. But the former president, never one to bet all his chips on one hand, nevertheless gave a nod to Greene on Friday night.

“We’re getting along very well with the speaker,” Trump said. “And I get along very well with Marjorie.”

The Pro-Life Movement Is Sticking With Trump

Donald Trump made a sharp break with the pro-life movement last week, but the institutional pro-life movement isn’t showing any sign of turning on him.

When he campaigned for president in 2016, Trump pledged to sign federal legislation that would “end painful late-term abortions nationwide,” but last week Trump said he would not back any new federal limit on abortion and that the issue should be left up to the states. “The principle of states-only is a killer for a human rights movement, which this is,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told The Dispatch in an interview on Friday. “You cannot give up on the fundamental principle that the worth of the human being doesn’t depend on where they live.”

When Trump privately floated a “states only” approach to the abortion issue in April 2023, Dannenfelser issued a statement calling Trump’s position “morally indefensible” and declared that SBA Pro-Life “will oppose any presidential candidate who refuses to embrace at a minimum a 15-week national standard to stop painful late-term abortions while allowing states to enact further protections.” Yet when Trump formally settled on his states-only approach last week, Dannenfelser said her organization was “deeply disappointed” in Trump’s position but would nevertheless “work tirelessly to defeat President Biden and extreme congressional Democrats.”

“Moving forward, we have to look at the choices,” Dannenfelser told The Dispatch when asked about the 2023 threat to oppose any candidate who didn’t support a 15-week federal limit on abortion. “We’re dealing with a nominee who gave us Dobbs and who is more pro-life than not, versus a guarantee of eliminating every pro-life protection in the country. That’s the choice.”

“If Biden wins, and there’s a Democratic sweep” of Congress, Dannenfelser said Democrats “will deliver on suspending the filibuster to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, and that wipes out everything.”

Republicans controlling either chamber of Congress could of course block Democratic legislation on abortion. What can pro-life groups gain from a second Trump presidency in terms of executive actions? “We don’t have anything on paper like we did last time,” Dannenfelser replied, but she expressed hope he would reinstate the “Mexico City Policy” prohibiting foreign aid from going to organizations that perform or promote abortion and reverse a new Department of Veterans Affairs policy on providing abortions.

Dannenfelser said neither Trump nor anyone associated with his campaign had given any indication he might reverse the FDA’s 2016 rule loosening distribution of the abortion drug mifepristone or the FDA’s 2021 rule allowing the abortion drug to be sent by mail without an in-person visit with a health care provider. But she still expressed hope a second Trump term might bring about such changes.

While Trump’s position on federal legislation left Dannenfelser disappointed, Trump’s remarks about state abortion referenda could ultimately do more harm to the pro-life cause by giving other Republican politicians permission to embrace pro-choice rhetoric and by persuading some voters to support measures creating a sweeping right to abortion. “Do what’s right for your family, and do what’s right for yourself,” Trump said of abortion referenda in a Truth Social video released last week. Two days later Trump said Florida’s abortion law prohibiting most abortions later than six weeks of pregnancy is “probably going to change” via referendum this fall. “The will of the people, this is what I’ve been saying.” 

In response to Trump’s comments on abortion referenda, Dannenfelser issued a statement saying that the ballot measures in Arizona and Florida “would wipe away all pro-life laws put in place by the legislature, reflective of the will of the people. These initiatives are fueled by hundreds of millions of dollars of left-wing money designed to deceive voters about their true intent. Pro-life candidates and officials must oppose them.” 

If Trump doesn’t oppose them? “The consequences for the country and those states is pretty horrible,” Dannenfelser told The Dispatch. And for Trump? “The consequence for him politically is probably not that great, given what the candidates around him are saying.”

Trump’s positioning and rhetoric on abortion in 2024 clearly show he thinks he has nothing to fear politically from the pro-life movement, and pro-life leaders aren’t giving him much of a reason to think he’s wrong. SBA Pro-Life was joined by Students for Life, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, the Family Research Council, National Right to Life and CatholicVote in restating their support for Trump after his comments last week. Asked if Trump has, at the very least, lost the pro-life label with his recent rhetoric, Dannenfelser replied: “Democrats won’t let him lose it. And I don’t think he ever will because of what he did to overturn Roe.”

Notable and Quotable

“We can’t just pick and say, ‘Iran’s bad, but Russia’s okay, and China’s bad’ … They’re all in this together, and it’s very clear to those of us in the intelligence, national security community.”

—House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul during his appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday.

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.

John McCormack is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was Washington correspondent at National Review and a senior writer at The Weekly Standard. When John is not reporting on politics and policy, he is probably enjoying life with his wife in northern Virginia or having fun visiting family in Wisconsin.

Charles Hilu is a reporter for The Dispatch based in Virginia. Before joining the company in 2024, he was the Collegiate Network Fellow at the Washington Free Beacon and interned at both National Review and the Washington Examiner. When he is not writing and reporting, he is probably listening to show tunes or following the premier sports teams of the University of Michigan and city of Detroit.