NEW YORK (AP) — House Speaker Mike Johnson endorsed Donald Trump for president on Tuesday, a move that was a symbolic departure from his ousted predecessor leading the House.
Johnson, an ally and defender of the former president, said in an interview on CNBC Tuesday morning, “I have endorsed him wholeheartedly.”
He added a bit later: “I’m all in for President Trump.”
Johnson, a little-known Louisiana congressman, became speaker late last month when Kevin McCarthy was ousted by a hard-right band of their fellow Republicans. Though McCarthy was a longtime Trump ally and one of the first elected officials to publicly align himself with Trump in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by Trump’s supporters, he had stopped short of formally backing Trump’s third White House bid.
McCarthy had drawn the ire of Trump allies after he questioned in an interview this summer whether Trump was the strongest candidate among the then-crowded field of GOP rivals. The field has shrunk in recent weeks, though Trump’s lead has remained fixed.
Trump has celebrated Johnson’s ascension to speaker, calling him “MAGA Mike Johnson.”
Johnson’s comments came hours after The New York Times reported on an August 2015 Facebook post Johnson made before he was elected to Congress in which he criticized Trump, then the Republican nominee, saying “he lacks the character and the moral center we desperately need again in the White House.”
In a response to someone commenting on the post, the newspaper reported that Johnson said: “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.”
Johnson, a social conservative, later became a steadfast defender of Trump, notably during his first impeachment in 2019 and through the 2020 election, echoing some of Trump’s conspiracy theories about his loss to Joe Biden in the presidential election and filing a brief in a lawsuit that sought to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election win.
Johnson reiterated that on Tuesday, saying in the interview that he was “one of the closest allies President Trump had in Congress.”
Johnson’s endorsement only firms up what is increasingly politically clear — that Trump is the Republican party’s front-runner heading toward 2024 and few GOP leaders are willing or able to stand in his way.
The speaker’s backing of Trump charts the course for other House Republicans and leaves those GOP lawmakers who prefer an alternative candidate increasingly isolated in their party, with few options.
While some more centrist conservative Republicans may not want to support Trump, particularly in congressional districts Biden won last time, they have few avenues in the Republican Party to muscle a different outcome in the presidential nominating contest.
Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.