Donald Trump may visit the Capitol to address Republicans as they pick a new speaker, AP sources say

Author: Farnoush Amiri and Jill Colvin (AP News)
Published: Updated:

Former President Donald Trump is in talks to visit Capitol Hill next week as Republicans debate who should be the next speaker of the House following Kevin McCarthy’s stunning ouster, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

The pending trip would be Trump’s first to the Capitol since leaving office and since his supporters attacked the building in a bid to halt the peaceful transition of power on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump has been indicted in both Washington and Georgia over his efforts to overturn the results of the election, which he lost to President Joe Biden.

Trump, the current GOP presidential front-runner, is likely to use any trip to further demonstrate his control over the Republican Party. House Republicans are deeply fractured and some are asking him to lead them — a suggestion he is also promoting after inflaming the divisions that forced out McCarthy as speaker.

Many in the GOP continue to downplay the violence on Jan. 6 that followed Trump’s exhortations to “fight like hell.” Among the Republicans who have floated Trump as an interim speaker is Texas Rep. Troy Nehls, who was photographed standing next to Capitol Police trying to secure the House chamber during the riot.

Trump told Fox News Digital he was heading to Washington on Tuesday to meet with Republicans. Three people familiar with the matter disclosed the talks about visiting the Capitol to The Associated Press speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement.

Trump would most likely attend a closed-door candidate forum that Republicans plan to hold Tuesday evening ahead of a speakership vote that could happen as soon as Wednesday, according to one of the people familiar with the matter.

The former president’s involvement may further complicate the maneuvering of the two leading candidates for speaker, Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio. Both are trying to lock in the 218 votes required to win the job and need the support of both the far-right and moderate factions of the party.

Jordan is also one of Trump’s biggest champions on the Hill and has been leading the investigations into prosecutors who have charged the former president. He was also part of a group of Republicans who worked with Trump to overturn his defeat ahead of Jan. 6.

Scalise has also worked closely with Trump over the years.

One of the people familiar with the planning had cautioned earlier Thursday that, if Trump did go ahead with the visit, he would be there to talk with Republican lawmakers and not to pitch himself for the role.

But the most powerful person in Republican politics is also its most unpredictable.

Trump told Fox News Digital Thursday that he would accept a short-term role as speaker — for anywhere from 30 to 90 days — if another candidate doesn’t have the votes to win.

“I have been asked to speak as a unifier because I have so many friends in Congress,” he told the outlet. “If they don’t get the vote, they have asked me if I would consider taking the speakership until they get somebody longer-term, because I am running for president.”

In a social media post earlier in the day, he added that he “will do whatever is necessary to help with the Speaker of the House selection process, short term, until the final selection of a GREAT REPUBLICAN SPEAKER is made – A Speaker who will help a new, but highly experienced President, ME, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

The Republican conference is filled with members generally supportive of Trump, but whether they’d back him to serve as speaker remains to be seen. The role is a demanding position — effectively running the Capitol and dealing with hundreds of lawmakers — and requires an attention to the arcane details of legislating that Trump showed little interest in even when he was president.

While he is dominating his GOP presidential rivals, Trump is also still traveling to early primary states to campaign and has been spending much of his time focused on the four criminal indictments and several civil cases he is facing.

While there is no requirement that a person be elected to the House to serve as speaker, every one of the 55 speakers the House has elected has been a member of the chamber. From time to time, lawmakers have thrown their votes to those outside of Congress, often as a protest against the candidates running.

Trump helped McCarthy win the speakership in January after 15 rounds of voting. But he exhorted Republicans to impeach Biden and to reject deals that McCarthy negotiated. Last month, he urged the right flank to support a government shutdown if Republicans did not win deep spending cuts, declaring on social media that the GOP “lost big on Debt Ceiling, got NOTHING, and now are worried that they will be BLAMED for the Budget Shutdown. Wrong!!! Whoever is President will be blamed, in this case, Crooked (as Hell!) Joe Biden!”

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