The new speaker publicly endorsed Trump’s 2024 presidential bid last week when he told CNBC’s Squawk Box program: ‘I’m all in for President Trump.’
On Monday evening the former president and Johnson attended Bilirakis’ fundraiser at Trump’s swanky Palm Beach, Florida club Mar-a-Lago.
Johnson was fundraising in Florida when he made the stop at Trump’s property, which doubles as his residence.
On October 25, Johnson found himself ascending from a rank-and-file member of the House of Representatives to the new House Speaker after Rep. Kevin McCarthy‘s ouster and weeks of chaos amongst Republicans picking his replacement.
Johnson, a devout Christian, wasn’t always a Trump backer – but he did play a key role in his bid to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
The new speaker’s endorsement and meeting with Trump seems to show he is figuring out that he needs Trump in his corner if House Republicans have any chance of retraining their slim majority in the lower chamber.
‘I expect he’ll [Trump] be our nominee, and we have to make [President Joe] Biden a one-term president,’ Johnson told CNBC last week, adding he’s one of the ‘closest allies President Trump has in Congress.’
Trump, who is facing more than 90 felony counts in criminal cases spanning four states, is the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican primary.
Rep. Bilirakis (R-Fla.) was holding the event at Trump’s club on Monday night where Johnson and the ex-president met.
Johnson was one of the lawmakers who voted against certifying the 2020 election results.
He also played a key role in helping garner support for the amicus brief backing a longshot lawsuit by Texas officials looking to back Trump’s 2020 Electoral College count challenge.
Quite how much Johnson’s last Tuesday endorsement helps Trump remains to be seen.
Speaker Johnson was little known before being elevated to the post of speaker last month and still has scant name recognition beyond Washington’s political circles.
And he delivered his endorsement on the day it emerged that he once condemned Trump on Facebook.
‘The thing about Donald Trump is that he lacks the character and the moral center we desperately need again in the White House ,’ Johnson wrote in 2015 in posts found by the New York Times .
His words were challenged in the comments and he responded: ‘I am afraid he would break more things than he fixes. He is a hot head by nature, and that is a dangerous trait to have in a commander in chief.’
At the time, Johnson was a lawmaker in Louisiana.
He went on to wonder whether Trump might bomb a head-of-state simply for showing him disrespect.
‘I am only halfway kidding about this,’ he wrote. ‘I just don’t think he has the demeanor to be president.’
Johnson is not alone in changing tack when it suited him.
Trump’s administration was filled with officials who backed other candidates in 2016 or were openly hostile to him.
And Johnson went on serve on Trump’s defense team during the president’s first impeachment trial.
‘During his 2016 campaign, President Trump quickly won me and millions of my fellow Republicans over,’ Johnson told the New York Times in response.
‘When I got to know him personally shortly after we both arrived in Washington in 2017, I grew to appreciate the person that he is and the qualities about him that made him the extraordinary president that he was.’
In his CNBC interview, he also defended Trump’s stance on the 2020 election.
Trump ‘just felt like he was cheated in the last election,’ he said.
Democrats were quick to highlight ‘MAGA Mike’s’ hardline positions.
Democratic National Committee spokesperson Sarafina Chitika said: ‘MAGA Mike Johnson sees in Trump another anti-abortion, election-denying extremist who will do everything in his power to pursue a radical, anti-freedom agenda if he’s reelected president.
‘Even though MAGA Mike once confessed that he thought Trump was ‘dangerous’ and ‘unfit’ to serve, he’s so hellbent on legislating away Americans’ freedoms and gutting Social Security and Medicare that he’s willing to endorse Trump anyway.’