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Dems Indicate Johnson’s Stunt at Trump Trial May Come With Serious Repercussions

Some Democrats have suggested they would no longer back House Speaker Mike Johnson in a future motion to vacate vote.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) listens during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on May 15, 2024.

Several Democrats in the House of Representatives have indicated that they might not vote to save Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson if a second motion to vacate is introduced, citing his recent defense of Donald Trump during the former president’s criminal court case in New York City.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) brought forward her long-promised motion to vacate against Johnson last week. But a bipartisan majority of the chamber — 196 Republicans and 163 Democrats — voted to table the measure, effectively killing it. Just 32 Democrats voted with 11 Republicans to allow the measure to move forward.

Nearly every Democratic lawmaker voted to vacate former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy in October. Most Democrats who voted to table Greene’s recent measure against Johnson cited the speaker’s cooperation with bipartisan votes to avoid a government shutdown and to send U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

Less than a week after that vote, Johnson traveled to New York City to speak to media about the trial regarding hush money payments that Trump had kept hidden through potentially illegal bookkeeping practices. Johnson lambasted the judicial system, calling the trial a “sham” and echoing many of Trump’s false talking points about the case being politically motivated. The speaker of the House also attacked the judge and his daughter in his comments — rhetoric that Trump himself is barred from engaging in due to a gag order issued by the judge.

Because of Johnson’s public attacks on the judiciary, some Democrats are now saying that they would have serious misgivings about voting to protect Johnson if another motion to vacate was introduced.

“Inserting himself into the president’s criminal trial, it’s unprecedented for a sitting speaker of the House of Representatives,” one senior Democrat in the House told Axios.

Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vermont) also expressed an unwillingness to vote for Johnson to keep his current job.

“People are just absolutely shocked that this is where we’ve sunk. … [The visit to Trump’s trial will] absolutely … be part of the calculation” on a future motion to vacate vote,” Balint said.

According to Axios, a number of other Democrats feel similarly, and leadership in the party is discussing the matter further. But some Democratic lawmakers have stated a desire to keep Johnson in his current position if there is another motion to vacate vote, expressing a preference for working with an adversary they’re familiar with over gambling with the possibility that an even more extreme Republican could replace him.

Those Democrats are perhaps overlooking the Christian nationalist measures that Johnson has consistently rallied for throughout his career, including a federal abortion ban, far right anti-LGBTQ policies and making it harder to get a divorce, among others.

Johnson was also instrumental in gathering endorsements from congressional Republicans in support of a Texas lawsuit seeking to block the certification of the Electoral College vote in the 2020 presidential election, an act that would have illegally kept Trump in the White House.

Remarkably, Johnson defended his decision to speak in front of the courthouse at Trump’s trial, calling his visit there “spontaneous” and claiming the case was a “true threat to our system of justice.”

“I really do believe that and people can interpret that however they want,” Johnson told NBC News on Wednesday.

That same day, Democratic lawmakers in Congress rejected that narrative, including Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), who said in comments directed toward the speaker:

Look at the cover of today’s New York Times, Mr. Speaker. This is unbelievable. Here’s a picture of the Speaker of this House of Representatives, second in line to the presidency, standing in front of a courthouse, acting as a prop for Donald Trump, trying to interfere with a criminal trial, because apparently, Republicans like law and order unless it applies to them.