Updated Jun 7, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Johnson seeks votes for bill to support Trump after guilty verdict

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA), Rep. Michael Guest (R-MS), Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), and Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) departs following a weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on June 4, 2024 in Washington, DC.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), Rep. Michael Guest (R-MS), Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), and Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) d leave their weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on June 4. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/Getty Images)

House Republican leaders are whipping votes on a bill aimed at showing allegiance to former President Trump after his historic conviction — but it's unclear if they can secure the needed support, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is under pressure from GOP hardliners to schedule a vote on the measure as part of a full-court press to defend Trump, so any difficulty locking down votes could once again put him in their crosshairs.

Driving the news: The bill would allow current or former presidents to move state-level charges against them into federal court. It's in direct response to Trump's conviction last week in New York.

  • Johnson's leadership team is making calls to whip support for the measure, the No More Political Prosecutions Act, according to two lawmakers and two other House GOP sources familiar with the conversations.
  • But the bill might be a bridge too far for moderate Republicans, who have told Axios they would struggle to support it.

The big picture: Putting the bill forward for a vote is a demonstration of how fervently House Republican leadership wants to stand with Trump.

  • House GOP leadership offered a uniform defense of Trump after his conviction, arguing the former president was the victim of a sham trial aimed at damaging his re-election bid.
  • The measure would be part of a multi-pronged effort targeting the Justice Department that Johnson outlined to his conference earlier this week that also included increased oversight and funding cuts, according to a source in the room.

Between the lines: Presidents can only pardon federal convictions, meaning that even if he were to capture the White House again, Trump couldn't do away with his New York conviction.

  • The bill also could theoretically allow Trump to move state-level charges he is facing in Georgia to federal court, with the option to then issue a self-pardon if convicted.

Yes, but: A number of moderates told Axios earlier this week that they were uncomfortable with the idea of letting a current or former president choose the venue of their trials.

  • "I'm debating it," one House Republican centrist told Axios.
  • But others, like Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.), who represents a district President Biden won in 2020, say they are prepared to support it.
  • Duarte told Axios that while he would prefer a "court venue lottery" to stop prosecutors from bringing cases in locations with favorable jury pools, "I will support the speaker on this legislation."

Reality check: Even if the bill clears the House, it has zero chance of being considered in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Johnson's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Editor's note; This story has been updated with additional reporting.

Go deeper