The Republican Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, travelled to Florida yesterday to huddle with Donald Trump in the latest sign of the hard-right presidential candidate’s informal, yet undisputed leadership of the party.
Little was said about the agenda for the gathering, other than it will cover “election integrity” – Trump code words for his attacks on US democracy based around the false claim of widespread voter fraud.
A news conference was scheduled later.
Trump was ejected from the White House in 2020 by Democrat Joe Biden and was shunned by most senior Republicans for his attempts to overturn the election result, culminating with a riot by his supporters through the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
However, Trump has regained his political momentum on the right as he seeks a shock return to the presidency this November and he exercises a powerful grip in Congress – notably steering the Republican blockage of US war aid to Ukraine.
For Johnson, the trek from Washington to see Trump comes as he tries to save himself from a rebellion on the far-right of his party, which threatens to eject him from the speakership.
Johnson, a long-time Trump loyalist, is walking a tightrope as he tries to balance the demands from his party’s relative moderates and the Democrats to pass bills, including the aid to embattled Ukraine.
The result so far has largely been paralysis in the House.
For Ukraine, the results have been dire, with ammunition-strapped forces increasingly unable to fend off Russian bombardments of the frontlines and civilian targets.
President Joe Biden has implored Congress to approve a bill worth $60bn in war aid.
However, despite Republicans and Democrats coming together in the Senate, Johnson has so far refused even to set a vote in the House.
Trump and his closest congressional allies have turned sharply on Ukraine, which has been battling a Russian invasion for more than two years.
In his latest comments on Wednesday, Johnson remained vague about his plans on Ukraine, saying: “There are a lot of different ideas.”
Johnson gained the Speaker’s gavel in a weeks-long October nominating battle after a handful of House Republican hardliners orchestrated the ouster of his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy.
Another party hardliner, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, has threatened to make a similar move against Johnson if he allows a vote on more aid for Ukraine.
The appearance at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Florida resort with the Republican presidential candidate could help Johnson’s standing with his 218-213 majority.
His own members have repeatedly torpedoed his legislative priorities, including this week by temporarily blocking the surveillance bill and in February, when it took two efforts to advance a bid to approve articles of impeachment against Biden’s top border official, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
The meeting with Trump presents Johnson with a chance to demonstrate a united front with the former president that Republicans say is necessary if the party is to retain control of the House and capture both the Senate and the White House in November.
“We’ve got to get on the same page about where we want the party to go,” said Representative Kevin Hern, who leads the conservative Republican Study Committee, the biggest House Republican caucus.
“I don’t think we’ve all heard directly how the president and the speaker are aligned,” Hern added. “We’ve got to get in lockstep as the Republican Party.”
Greene this week has repeated her threats to force a vote to remove Johnson from leadership.
“Our voters will not support a Republican Party that continues like his leadership has been,” Greene told reporters after a meeting with Johnson on Wednesday. “We have to have changed behaviour that supports the policies that the American people are supporting under President Trump.”
Disorder within the caucus has repeatedly forced Johnson to use a parliamentary manoeuvre bypassing Republican hardliners and relying on substantial Democratic support to pass critical legislation, such as bills averting government shutdowns.

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