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Mike Johnson as speaker shows ‘Maga is ascendant’ in Congress, Matt Gaetz says

Mike Johnson’s ascent to be speaker of the US House of Representatives proves Donald Trump dominates the Republican party and “Maga is ascendant”, the Florida congressman Matt Gaetz said, using an acronym for Trump’s campaign slogan, Make America great again.

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“The swamp is on the run, Maga is ascendant and if you don’t think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to Maga Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement, and where the power of the Republican party truly lies, then you’re not paying attention,” Gaetz told the former Trump campaign chair and White House strategist Steve Bannon on his podcast on Wednesday.

Gaetz precipitated three weeks of leaderless chaos inside the Republican party, and therefore the House, when he triggered the removal of McCarthy this month. Seven other Republicans voted to make McCarthy the first speaker ever ejected by his own party but Gaetz orchestrated the move.

First Steve Scalise of Louisiana, then Jim Jordan of Ohio, then Tom Emmer of Minnesota won internal votes but failed to win sufficient support on the House floor.

Some pundits thought Jordan’s failure indicated a waning of Trump’s influence, given the Ohioan’s longstanding prominence on the extreme right of the party. But on Tuesday, Trump dynamited Emmer’s hopes with a brutal statement.

The party then moved fast to select Johnson, a low-profile Louisiana lawmaker who nonetheless played a central role in Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election and whose policy positions, and past as a lawyer for anti-LGBTQ+ and creationist causes, puts him on the hard right of the party.

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Despite facing 91 criminal charges and assorted civil threats, Trump maintains huge leads in polling regarding the Republican presidential nomination next year.

Gaetz, a dedicated rabble-rouser facing a House ethics investigation over allegations of sexual misconduct and misuse of funds, is reported to be targeting a run for governor of Florida.

On Wednesday, Jeff Timmer, a former Republican operative now an adviser to the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, assessed Gaetz’s claim that “Maga is ascendant” and said: “It’s strange to say, but Matt Gaetz is correct about this.”

Gaetz told Bannon Johnson was “sharp” and would be “as respected in the homes of our most meaningful, righteous and patriotic donors as he will at the rallies with our most enthusiastic and meaningful activists.

“… They are crying, they are hand-wringing, they are bed-wetting over on K Street” – the centre of the lobbying industry in Washington DC – “because we have an honorable, righteous man who is about to take this position. He’s going to do great things for the country.”

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On Tuesday night, when Johnson announced that he was set to become speaker, a reporter asked him about his role in Trump’s election subversion.

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The Louisianan was one of 147 Republicans who voted to object to results in key states even after the deadly January 6 riot. He also authored an amicus brief to the US supreme court in a case which aimed to have results thrown out, attracting 125 supporters.

At the Capitol, Johnson smiled and shook his head while Republicans around him booed and jeered.

“Shut up,” said Virginia Foxx, 80, from North Carolina. “Shut up.”

Johnson said: “Next question.”