WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President and GOP front-runner 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 trip would be Trump’s first to the Capitol since leaving office and since his supporters violently stormed 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’s potential visit comes as some on the far right have floated him as a potential candidate for speaker — perhaps on an interim basis. One of the people familiar with the planning cautioned that, if Trump goes ahead with the visit, he would be there to talk with Republican lawmakers and not to pitch himself for the role, even as some allies continued to push him for it.
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.
The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement.
Trump is being encouraged to run by a small group of far-right allies including Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Texas Rep. Troy Nehls. McCarthy, of California, was ousted from his leadership post week when eight Republicans supported a motion introduced by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz to remove him.
Gaetz and Greene are both Trump allies, though Greene voted against the motion to remove McCarthy.
While there is no requirement that a person be a member of 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.
The Republican conference is filled with members generally supportive of Trump, but whether they’d want 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 has shown little interest in, even when he was president.
Speaking Wednesday during a court appearance in New York, Trump, the early front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, said “a lot of people” had been calling him about the speaker’s job. While he insisted he was focused “totally” on his campaign to return to the White House, he seemed to suggest he was open to the role.
“If I can help them during the process, I would do it. But we have some great people in the Republican Party that could do a great job as speaker,” he said
In a social media post early Thursday, 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 possibility of Trump visiting Republicans as they battle amongst themselves for a path forward caught many on Capitol Hill by surprise. The former president’s involvement is sure to further complicate an already complex set of maneuvering the two leading candidates to succeed McCarthy as speaker — Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio — will need to make in order to grasp the 218 votes required to win the job.
Both men are likely to face a steep hill to the dais as they try to win the support of both the far-right and moderate factions of the party.
The far-flung idea of Trump being a candidate for the speakership was also raised in January by the same far-right members of the conference. In a number of rounds of voting after Republicans took control of the House, members like Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Gaetz nominated Trump as their candidate. The effort was ultimately fruitless as McCarthy had the support of more than 90% of the conference
Immediately after news of Trump’s potential visit began to trickle out, Greene, who is one of Trump’s most loyal allies in Congress, posted another endorsement of him for the job on social media. “If Trump becomes Speaker of the House, the House chamber will be like a Trump rally everyday!!” she wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Nehls, who was among the first to promote Trump for the job, said he’d been contacted “by multiple Members of Congress willing to support and offer nomination speeches for Donald J. Trump to be Speaker of the House.”
“Next week,” he wrote on X, “is going to be HUGE.”
___ Colvin reported from New York. Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.