Trump tries to privately mediate Johnson-Greene fight

Donald Trump is going further than just public statements supporting Speaker Mike Johnson — he’s actually trying to mediate between the House GOP leader and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

So far, it’s unclear if the ex-president can convince one of his most loyal followers to back off her threat to force a vote ousting the speaker.

Trump and the Georgia firebrand, who speak often, had a lengthy phone call over the weekend, according to three Republicans familiar with the matter. Trump’s message to her, per those people: Stand down from the so-called motion to vacate.

“I have it under very, very good sources that President Trump did engage. And I’m hoping that perhaps one would come to the conclusion: ‘You made your point,’” said Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), citing a weekend discussion the former president had with Greene. “But don’t be Kamikaze, because if you go for this, you’re gonna get beaten down. And he made that point. I’m hoping that’s the outcome.”

Another Republican, granted anonymity to discuss private conversations, put it more bluntly: “He told her not to do it.”

Such messages fall in line with Trump’s public remarks, where he’s repeatedly praised the GOP leader and urged Greene not to trigger the vote. He’s made those same comments at private events, according to one Republican with knowledge of his remarks.

“The President was very strong in his endorsement of Johnson at the RNC event this weekend. He repeatedly said what a good job Johnson is doing under impossible circumstances,” said this Republican in attendance, granted anonymity to speak candidly. “And the president repeatedly said that we Republicans need to be unified heading into November.”

The Trump call preceded Greene meeting with Johnson on Monday afternoon, which lasted roughly two hours as they discussed a way forward. They were joined by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who was the second House Republican to co-sponsor the ejection threat.

Johnson and Greene are scheduled to meet again on Tuesday afternoon in what could be an offramp from Greene’s ouster vote threat. The two are discussing multiple ideas, including trying to defund special counsel Jack Smith — a proposal that is likely to spark pushback from other corners of the GOP conference, as it could risk a shutdown shortly before the November election — as well as deals on spending. But Johnson stressed on Tuesday that “it’s not a negotiation” and that he was just listening to ideas from Greene and Massie.

Trump’s backchanneling has extended to Johnson, as well. The speaker said that he also spoke with Trump on Monday — and that the former president had his back on Greene’s threats.

“He’s not in favor of it,” Johnson told reporters, adding that Trump did not call into his Monday meeting with Greene and Massie.

Despite Trump’s pushback, Greene has defended her decision to press forward with a referendum on his speakership, arguing that she — and not Johnson — is the GOP member actually fighting for policies that Trump supports. She’s also acknowledged that she’s spoken with Trump on the vacate effort, while declining to detail their conversations.

But even some of Johnson’s critics have acknowledged that Trump’s backing has added an extra layer of protection for the speaker and, at least for now, helped deflate Greene’s ouster threat. Other Republicans have privately warned that Greene is risking political blowback, testing the boundaries of a GOP presidential nominee who doesn’t typically take kindly to defiance.

Trump allies who oppose her effort, however, also argue Trump so far doesn’t see this as rising to the level of disloyalty.

As Johnson heads into a second meeting with Greene and Massie Tuesday, Republicans are gently warning the speaker against boxing himself in with his hardliners. They argue the clearest warning is his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, who agreed to multiple huge concessions back in January 2023 in order to win the House gavel.

“I don’t have a problem with him listening. What I will have a problem with … is when you start making special deals, side deals, hidden deals, behind the closed-door deals. And then not just conservatives but moderates, say: ‘Well, what about my deal,’” said Republican Study Committee Chair Kevin Hern (R-Okla.).

“That’s how we got in trouble in January 2023,” echoed centrist Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.). “We gave away way too much, and I think we’re paying for it right now. So I would be very careful on negotiating with her.”

Johnson acknowledged during a closed-door conference meeting on Tuesday morning that he was meeting with Greene and Massie. But Johnson said he told members that he was only hearing them out — something he frequently does for Republicans who wanted to speak with him, regardless of their ideology.

“It’s not a negotiation,” he said. “Everybody knows I have lengthy discussions, detailed discussions with members across the conference.”