13 Apr 2024, 08:42

Trump offers support to beleaguered House speaker

MIAMI, April 13, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Donald Trump on Friday threw a lifeline to embattled House Speaker Mike Johnson, saying the Republican congressional leader is doing "a very good job."

Trump defended Johnson against a move by firebrand Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, whom Trump labeled as a friend, to call a vote for his ouster.

"It's not an easy situation for any speaker," Trump said, with Johnson standing near him at the former president's Mar-a-Lago estate.

Johnson traveled to Florida on Friday to huddle with Trump in the latest sign of the hard-right presidential candidate's informal, yet undisputed leadership of the party.

After their meeting, the two declared concern about potential fraud in the November presidential election and touched on aid to Ukraine, an issue that has sent fissures through the Republican Party.

On another issue dividing the party, Trump soft-pedaled his past support for abortion rights decades ago, saying he remolded the US Supreme Court as president, leading to the court's June 2022 overturning of the constitutional right to an abortion.

"We did something that everyone said couldn't be done," Trump said of the high court ruling overturning abortion protections.

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.

But 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.

Trump inched back on Ukraine Friday, saying he favored loans to Ukraine for its military defense rather than direct assistance.

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 longtime 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.

Biden has implored Congress to approve a bill worth $60 billion in war aid. But despite Republicans and Democrats coming together in the Senate, Johnson has so far refused even to set a vote in the House.

Johnson said he would soon put forth a bill stiffening requirements that potential voters prove their citizenship status before casting ballots.

"We cannot wait for widespread fraud to occur, especially when the threat of fraud is growing with every single illegal immigrant that crosses the border," he said.


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