Trump working to protect McCarthy as the former president seeks support for '24 bid

By Gabby Orr and Melanie Zanona, CNNUpdated: Mon, 14 Nov 2022 17:17:52 GMTSource: CNNFormer President Donald Trump has been privately encouraging allies to support House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy

By Gabby Orr and Melanie Zanona, CNN

Updated: Mon, 14 Nov 2022 17:17:52 GMT

Source: CNN

Former President Donald Trump has been privately encouraging allies to support House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's bid for House speaker, according to two sources familiar with the effort, believing that the California Republican will be an asset down the road should the former president find himself in a contested 2024 primary.

House Republicans are expected to meet Monday evening to discuss the leadership candidates, and have a closed-door vote on Tuesday. McCarthy will only need a simple majority to advance from Tuesday's vote, but the vote on the House floor for speaker will come when the new House convenes in January, and McCarthy will need 218 votes at that time to win the speakership.

Trump reaffirmed his support for McCarthy's leadership bid in an interview with Fox News last week and he has since been working the phones to persuade Republican allies to back him, particularly conservative members who remain skeptical of McCarthy.

The news comes on the eve of Trump's expected announcement for a third presidential campaign. The former president and the California Republican have spoken multiple times since the midterm elections, sources said, and McCarthy's camp is hoping Trump's endorsement will help win over some of the staunchest Trump supporters who have been critical of McCarthy.

Despite Trump's pro-McCarthy campaign, it hasn't fully broken through. Some of Trump's staunchest allies have been all over conservative media attacking McCarthy. However, one notable Trump ally who will actually get to vote in the speaker's race went on Steve Bannon's podcast on Monday and expressed support for McCarthy: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who called it a "bad strategy" and "risky" to challenge McCarthy given their likely razor-thin majority.

McCarthy has worked hard to court Greene, from having weekly meetings with her in his office to promising her better committee assignments after Democrats kicked her off committees for incendiary remarks.

Meanwhile, Trump aides and allies have been privately critical of Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, amid the GOP's underwhelming midterm gains, especially on the House side. CNN has not yet projected which party will control the lower chamber, though Republicans appear on track to gain a narrow House majority. Emmer is competing against Rep. Jim Banks, an ally of Donald Trump Jr., for the position of House GOP whip.

"The strategy is to protect McCarthy from blame because [Trump] needs him for his presidential run," said one Trump adviser.

Trump has been eager to lock up public support from Republicans for his third presidential bid, with a separate GOP source saying he has been asking to see which GOP lawmakers have endorsed him in the media. So far, House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik has been the highest-ranking Republican to officially back Trump's 2024 bid.

Trump's support for McCarthy stands in contrast with his relationship to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. GOP sources told CNN last week that Trump is calling up his allies in the Senate to gin up opposition to the Kentucky Republican ahead of leadership elections in that chamber Wednesday.

A small, but vocal, group of GOP senators has been calling to delay their leadership elections so they can have a "family discussion" about why the GOP underperformed. And at least one Republican, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, has publicly vowed to oppose McConnell's bid for GOP leader.

McConnell has been calling his colleagues over the last several days to shore up his support as his team plans to plow forward with leadership elections on Wednesday. They are planning to have a GOP air-clearing session on Tuesday.

Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, a former chairman of the pro-Trump House Freedom Caucus, is considering mounting a long-shot challenge to McCarthy during the House GOP's internal leadership elections on Tuesday, according to GOP sources familiar with the matter. McCarthy's team has been prepared for this possibility.