House Speaker Mike Johnson endorses Donald Trump for president

House Speaker Mike Johnson on Tuesday publicly endorsed Donald Trump for president, becoming the highest-ranking Republican so far to back the former president’s 2024 bid.

“I’m all in for President Trump, I expect he’ll be our nominee, and he’s going to win it, and we have to make [Joe Biden] a one-term president. We have to do that,” Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, told CNBC.

While the newly minted speaker, like his ousted predecessor, is a longtime Trump ally, Johnson’s endorsement marks a notable departure from Kevin McCarthy, who stopped short of formally backing Trump’s third run for the White House. On Tuesday, Johnson – who said he has endorsed Trump “wholeheartedly” – dubbed himself “one of the closest allies that President Trump had in Congress” and said Trump had “a phenomenal first term.”

Johnson voted to sustain the objection to electoral votes on January 6, 2021. A constitutional lawyer, he also served on Trump’s impeachment team, though the role was largely ceremonial.

On Tuesday, Johnson defended the endorsement in light of Trump’s lies about the 2020 election, arguing that the former president truly believes the election was stolen and it was not a power grab. “I take him at his word. I do believe he believes that,” he said. “Remember, I was one of his lawyers. I worked on the impeachment defense team twice to defend his position, and I know how he thinks, and he’s convinced that because of all of the irregularities and everything else, that he was still entitled to that.”

Still, the speaker’s endorsement comes the same day as The New York Times unearthed a Facebook post Johnson made in 2015 calling Trump a “hot-head” and arguing he “lacks the character and the moral center we desperately need again in the White House.”

McCarthy, both in his role as speaker and since he was ousted from the role last month, has refrained from fully endorsing Trump’s 2024 bid. At one point in June, McCarthy even suggested in an interview with CNBC that the former president wasn’t the “strongest” candidate. Though he tried to walk back those comments, voicing full support of Trump, he stopped short of endorsing him outright.

Johnson benefitted from Trump’s support in his successful bid for speaker last month, after the former president had come out against the GOP’s brief speaker-nominee Tom Emmer, calling the Minnesota Republican a “Globalist RINO” and saying that voting for him “would be a tragic mistake.”

Pressed Tuesday on Trump’s indictments, Johnson said, “I think this is motivated by political prosecutions, we call it ‘lawfare,’ and that’s what it is. It’s just another way to go after a candidate.”

On government funding, Johnson told CNBC that he believes there will be support from both sides of the aisle for his two-step, short-term spending bill, as Congress works to avert a shutdown at the end of the week.

Pressed on how his passing a clean, short-term spending bill is different from when McCarthy did the same thing, and was ostensibly ousted over it, Johnson argued they were different situations.

“What we’re doing now is a little bit different than what Kevin was presented with. He was in a jam as well, but by breaking this up and doing the CR the way we are, it’s a new shift,” he said, noting that a House Freedom Caucus member, Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris, came up with the idea of splitting it into two parts.

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