Donald Trump endorses Jim Jordan to succeed Kevin McCarthy as House speaker

House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, leads the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, Thursday, July 20, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump is backing Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the pugnacious House Judiciary Committee chairman and longtime Trump defender, to succeed Kevin McCarthy as House speaker.

“Congressman Jim Jordan has been a STAR long before making his very successful journey to Washington, D.C., representing Ohio’s 4th Congressional District,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social site early Friday. “He will be a GREAT Speaker of the House, &has my Complete &Total Endorsement!”

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The announcement came hours after Texas Rep. Troy Nehls said Thursday night that Trump had decided to back Jordan’s bid and after Trump said he would be open to serving as interim leader himself if Republicans couldn’t settle on a successor following McCarthy’s stunning ouster.

Trump, the current GOP presidential front-runner, has used the leadership vacuum on the Hill to further demonstrate his control over the Republican Party. House Republicans are deeply fractured and some have been asking him to lead them — a seemingly fanciful suggestion that he also promoted after inflaming the divisions that forced out McCarthy as speaker.

Trump had been telling people in recent days that he preferred Jordan for the post, according to two Republicans familiar with his thinking and granted anonymity to discuss it. But it was unclear whether he intended to announce it before Nehls’ tweet.

“Just had a great conversation with President Trump about the Speaker’s race. He is endorsing Jim Jordan, and I believe Congress should listen to the leader of our party,” Nehls wrote late Thursday on X, formerly known as Twitter.

In an interview later with The Associated Press, Nehls, who had been encouraging Trump to run for the post himself, said the ex-president instead wanted Jordan.

“After him thinking about it and this and that … he said he really is in favor of getting behind Jim Jordan,” Nehls said. “He believes Jim Jordan is right for the job.”

Jordan is one of two leading candidates maneuvering for speaker along with Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana. 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. It’s unclear whether Trump’s endorsement will force Scalise, the current GOP majority leader, out of the race, or if either can reach the threshold.

Indeed, Nehls said that if no current candidate succeeds in earning the support needed to win, he would once again turn to Trump. “Our conference is divided. Our country is broken. I don’t know who can get to 218,” he said in the interview.

Trump earlier in the day had been in talks to visit Capitol Hill next week ahead of a speakership vote that could happen as soon as Wednesday, according to three people familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement. Trump confirmed the trip to Fox News Digital and said he would travel Tuesday to meet with Republicans.

The trip would have been 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.

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