Trump holds Mar-a-Lago joint appearance with Johnson amid speakership threat

The meeting comes days after Trump helped spike the Johnson-backed FISA bill.

BySarah Beth Hensley, Rachel Scott, and Lalee Ibssa ABCNews logo
Friday, April 12, 2024
Trump holds Mar-a-Lago joint appearance with speaker Johnson
Donald Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson appeared together Friday at the former president's Florida estate, a show of unity as the embattled Johnson faces a threat to his leadership.

Donald Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson appeared together Friday at the former president's Florida estate, a show of unity as the embattled Johnson faces a threat to his leadership.

"He's doing a really good job under very tough circumstances and I appreciate that he came to Mar-a-Lago," Trump said of Johnson.

The two men are speaking about "election integrity" -- a chief priority for the presumptive GOP nominee, who continues to lie about the results of the 2020 election. Trump's calls for "election integrity" come in an election year when there is expected to be another tight matchup against President Joe Biden.

Johnson has echoed Trump's calls for "election integrity" and was one of the 147 GOP lawmakers who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election. He also led the charge to get 125 of his Republican colleagues to sign an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, supporting Texas' lawsuit that would have invalidated the election results in key battleground states.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson talks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on, Nov. 2, 2023.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

But more recently, the two men have been at odds on passing additional aid to Ukraine and on the reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Trump encouraged House GOP hard-liners this week to block reauthorizing FISA, resulting in an embarrassing setback for Johnson though the legislation ultimately passed the House earlier Friday with bipartisan support.Still, Johnson may be looking to Trump to help him keep the job he has held since October after fellow Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene introduced a motion to vacate the speaker's chair last month.

Greene and Johnson met this week for the first time since she filed the motion, and appeared still at odds after nearly an hour of conversation. The Georgia congresswoman told reporters she heard a lot of "excuses" from Johnson and she didn't back away from her threat to force a vote on whether to remove him from the top post.

Trump's orbit isn't happy with Greene -- a long-vocal Trump supporter -- and her threat to throw the House GOP into chaos again with another speakership battle, Politico's Rachael Bade, also an ABC News political contributor, reported.

Another battle for the speaker's chair could undercut the Republican Party's efforts to maintain its majority in the House, flip the Senate and win the White House, Bade reported.

Greene said she warned Johnson not to move ahead on providing further assistance Ukraine aid, which he vowed to do when lawmakers returned to Washington this week. Trump, too, has signaled Congress should stop funding Ukraine as Russia's invasion of the Eastern European nation stretches into its third year.

The Senate, however, has passed a $95 billion foreign aid package that includes nearly $60 billion in funds for Ukraine as well as aid for Israel and Taiwan. The legislation was backed by the White House, but it's yet to come up for a vote in the House.

Former President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson
Former President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson
Getty Images/AP

Johnson had said the House would act on Ukraine funding with "innovations" when lawmakers returned from recess this week. On Wednesday, he said work was being done to come to an agreement but it appeared there was still little sign of progress on how to move forward.

Despite their differences on Ukraine, Johnson posted a smiling, thumbs-up photo with Trump on Presidents Day back in February, pointing to their shared effort to "save America."

Trump earlier this year stopped a version of the foreign aid bill that included bipartisan border security provisions, calling it a "disaster. Johnson also spoke out against the border provisions, saying he spoke "frequently" with Trump about the measure at the time.

When Democrats accused Johnson of taking orders from Trump, the speaker said he was not the former president's puppet.

"He's not calling the shots. I am calling the shots for the House," Johnson said of Trump on NBC News' "Meet the Press" in February.

Democrats like Congressional Progressive Caucus chairwoman Rep. Pramila Jayapal continued that criticism ahead of Friday's meeting. Jayapal described the move as Johnson bowing to Trump in Florida/

"It's ludicrous," Rep. Jayapal told reporters. "The reality is that they have done everything that they can on the Republican side to undermine election integrity. They continue to do that. And this is the obligatory kiss the [ring] of the cult of Trump that the speaker is undertaking."

Several Trump allies in Congress, however, said they support the joint appearance.

"I think it's good for the speaker to talk to the leader of our party," said Florida Rep. Byron Donalds. "I would argue that it is good -- whether it's Leader McConnell, or frankly any governor in our country - to talk to the leader of our party because it is his [Trump's] agenda. That is going to be the banner for Republicans to get this country out of the mess that it's in and get this country back to being prominent and great once again."

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., said he believes the former president and Johnson have a good relationship already but that it can be strengthened after today's appearance.

"They can both learn and glean from each other and move us forward and put us hopefully in great position in the fall to not only regain the White House with President Trump but gain seats in the House and recapture the United States Senate," Fleischmann.

ABC News' Lauren Peller contributed to this report.