Who will talk to him?

By | March 10, 2024

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WASHINGTON – With former President Donald Trump all but securing the Republican nomination in his quest to retake the White House, Republicans in the House of Representatives are grappling with one key question as he moves toward the nomination:

Who will deal with him if he wins a second term?

If Trump wins re-election, someone in the House Republican conference will have to be the liaison between the former president and the House of Representatives. Some Republican lawmakers aren’t exactly clear who that person will be.

Of course, all governments work closely with Capitol Hill to implement their agenda, but Trump’s designation will be especially consequential because of his sometimes erratic behavior compared to his predecessors. It’s unclear who he will listen to as Republicans try to advance their priorities. Republican members of the House of Representatives have been largely in disarray in recent months, sometimes failing to unite around key legislative policies.

From the sidelines, Trump as a candidate has already irritated some Republican lawmakers after derailing a bipartisan emergency spending deal that would have significantly overhauled border and migrant policies.

The lawmaker previously believed to be the ambassador between the House of Representatives and Trump has been forcibly removed from that position. Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, California, who was impeached last year, met with the former president several times a day during his administration to brief him on legislation during his administration. At times, the former president suspended judgment on large-dollar legislation.

“The question is not who would talk to Trump. It’s who Trump would listen to and who he would trust,” said a senior Republican Party aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I don’t think there’s anyone here right now that Trump would listen to the way he listened to McCarthy.”

With McCarthy gone, the Republican conference is scrambling over who will handle Trump.

“That’s a good question. I don’t know,” said Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, Trump’s former White House doctor and an ally in the House of Representatives. “I obviously have a relationship with him and I’m going to try to be as useful to him as possible.”

Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump, speaks at an evening party before the primaries at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, SC, February 24, 2024.Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump, speaks at an evening party before the primaries at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, SC, February 24, 2024.

Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump, speaks at an evening party before the primaries at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, SC, February 24, 2024.

A ‘good working relationship’ with Speaker Johnson

The supposed point of contact between the Republican conference and a Trump White House is, of course, the top Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, in this case current House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. But there could well be a leadership shake-up if Republicans lose the House in the election — which Democrats are optimistic about given the House’s dysfunction in recent months. Currently, Republicans have a narrow majority in the House of Representatives and Democrats need a net gain of just four seats to gain control of the Chamber.

Regardless, Johnson has begun building a relationship with the former president since taking on the mantle as speaker.

“Circumstances have required them to talk quite often and I think that has helped build the relationship,” Jackson said. A person familiar with Johnson and Trump’s relationship also described it as a “good working relationship” and said the two regularly talk about a range of issues.

One of McCarthy’s former top lieutenants, Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., noted that Johnson was part of Trump’s defense team during his first impeachment trial in 2020 and that helped build a “close relationship” between the two . But nothing in the future is “guaranteed,” he added.

Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, an unabashedly pro-Trump lawmaker, did not express many concerns, as the former president has already established lines of communication with other lawmakers during his first term.

“I think there are people here who will try to keep him informed.” Nehls said he is doing “what I can” to keep Trump apprised of the temperature of the House GOP conference and his priorities.

Trump’s other most ardent supporters in the House of Representatives include House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. ., the No. 4 House Republican.

The number of lawmakers who have positioned themselves as Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill underlines the conundrum: No one knows who will lead with the former president.

One lawmaker thinks Trump will personally choose someone himself.

“I think he’s going to anoint someone,” Rep. Max Miller, R-Ohio, a former Trump aide who speaks regularly with the former president, told USA TODAY.

Nehls also thought it was possible that Trump would personally choose someone from the conference to be the point of contact between the White House and the House of Representatives. As expected of the former president, Nehls told Trump that “loyalty is very, very important.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., applauds President Joe Biden's arrival in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, March 7, 2024, in Washington.House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., applauds President Joe Biden's arrival in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, March 7, 2024, in Washington.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., applauds President Joe Biden’s arrival in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, March 7, 2024, in Washington.

A ‘multi-pronged approach’ for a House GOP ambassador

If loyalty to the former president is non-negotiable, that could exclude the leaders of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus. Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., chairman of the loose group of far-right lawmakers, chose to endorse then-Florida governor candidate Ron DeSantis over Trump in the presidential primary, drawing the ire of Trump allies.

If he selects someone from the Republican conference to serve as the Republicans’ top ambassador to the House of Representatives, a former Trump White House official described it as a “multi-pronged approach,” with several factors influencing Trump’s choice could determine.

That includes defending the president on television and strong decision-making. McCarthy, the official said, “had a good feeling about things and more often than not Kevin’s advice was correct.”

Conservative Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., another of Trump’s most outspoken supporters, cast herself as one of the key members who could have the president’s ear.

“I’m always happy to be a point of contact for the president,” Greene said. “I would say I’m probably his strongest supporter in the House of Representatives.”

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., yells at President Joe Biden as he delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House chamber of the Capital Building on March 7, 2024 in Washington , DC.U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., yells at President Joe Biden as he delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House chamber of the Capital Building on March 7, 2024 in Washington , DC.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., yells at President Joe Biden as he delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House chamber of the Capital Building on March 7, 2024 in Washington , DC.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: If Trump wins a second term, House GOP wonders: Who will talk to him?

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