Watch CBS News

Trump backs Johnson at Mar-a-Lago as speaker touts "election integrity" bill

Mike Johnson visits Trump at Mar-a-Lago
House Speaker Mike Johnson visits Trump at Mar-a-Lago 02:09

A photo op was worth a thousand words for House Speaker Mike Johnson on Friday as he stood alongside former President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, presenting a united front at a critical time in Johnson's tenure to announce a new GOP "election integrity" bill.

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, told reporters that Johnson is doing a "really good job under very tough circumstances," precisely the endorsement Johnson needed as he tries to fend off a threat to his speakership from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Trump said he gets along very well with Greene, but made it clear that House Republicans shouldn't undertake another drawn-out battle for the speaker's gavel anytime soon. 

"We're getting along very well with the speaker and I get along very well with Marjorie," Trump said. "We have a speaker — he was voted in, and it was a very complicated process. I think it's not an easy situation for any speaker. I think he's doing a very good job, he's doing about as good as you're going to do. And I'm sure that Marjorie understands that." 

The press conference was ostensibly about the new "election integrity" bill that Johnson said House Republicans will take up soon. The speaker said the still-unreleased legislation would require proof of citizenship to register to vote and close loopholes in state voter registration protocols that require voters to assert their citizenship, but not necessarily "prove" it. States would also be required to remove any non-citizens from voter rolls, Johnson said. 

He cited the large influx of migrants entering the U.S. in recent years, tying the two issues together.

"The House Republicans are introducing a bill that will require proof of citizenship to vote," Johnson said. "It seems like commonsense. I'm sure all of us would agree — we only want U.S. citizens to vote in U.S. elections. ... There are so many millions of illegals in the country that if only one out of 100 voted, they would cast potentially hundreds of thousands of votes in the election."

It has been illegal for non-citizens to vote in federal elections for decades. A database maintained by the Trump-aligned Heritage Foundation shows just 25 cases of non-citizens trying to vote in federal elections in the last 20 years.

Election 2024 Trump
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump listens during a news conference, Friday, April 12, 2024, at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. Wilfredo Lee / AP

The bill stands no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, and Johnson acknowledged that the legislation aims to prevent a problem that does not exist, noting at one point that "we cannot wait for widespread fraud to occur." Trump continues to falsely claim that he lost the 2020 election due to voter fraud.

"Today's press conference is simply designed to further sow confusion and distrust in our elections," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Friday evening. "Even the conservative CATO institute has said, noncitizens are not voting in federal elections or state elections. Donald Trump, the big lie and those who stoke it for partisan politics are the real threats to our democracy."

Back in Washington, Greene has threatened to force a vote to oust Johnson over government spending and potential aid to Ukraine, although no other House Republicans have signed on to the effort. A single member can force a vote to oust a speaker, a rule former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed to in order to capture his short-lived speakership.

Johnson has also struggled to unite his fractious Republican conference since he won the gavel after McCarthy's ouster last year. A group of conservatives revolted yet again just this week, blocking a bill to renew the government's surveillance powers. A shorter-term version of the bill ultimately passed on Friday.

Ahead of Johnson's Mar-a-Lago appearance, the Biden campaign released a statement from Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chair of the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, calling Trump "a threat to our democracy and a danger to our Constitution."

"Donald Trump and Mike Johnson don't care about election integrity — they care only about helping Trump's campaign of revenge and retribution to regain power at all costs," Thompson said.

Greene renewed her threat to force a vote on Johnson's ouster earlier this week but has not said when she might move forward. Her threats also come as Johnson faces mounting pressure to call a vote on approving more aid for Ukraine, something Greene strongly opposes.

Johnson told the Christian Broadcasting Network earlier this week that he doesn't "harbor any ill will towards Marjorie," but said a stalemate in Congress is counterproductive to the Republican Party and Trump's chances in 2024. The House ground to a halt for weeks after McCarthy's ouster in the fall.

"We've got to demonstrate the American people that we can keep the train on the tracks," he told CBN. "And so pulling a motion to vacate, removing the speaker right now is exactly the opposite of what we need to show the country. We can't close the Congress down, because that's what will happen. They will blame us. And so it would hurt our chances of growing the majority, or our party or President Trump's chances for his election because all of our fates in, in some sense, are tied together."

Johnson's venture to Mar-a-Lago was reminiscent of McCarthy's visit to Mar-a-Lago weeks after Trump supporters assaulted the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, endangering members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence. McCarthy initially blamed Trump for the riot, but needed Trump's support to eventually become speaker.

— Jaala Brown, Scott MacFarlane and Caitlin Yilek contributed to this report.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.