Almost 60 percent of Republicans voters want former President Donald Trump to play a “major role” in leading the GOP going forward, and Steve Bannon--of all people--has an interesting and potentially feasible idea as to how.
As detailed in “Abuse of Power: Inside the Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump,” it’s not unheard of for former presidents to keep stirring up trouble—in Congress. The first impeached president Andrew Johnson, served in the Senate representing Tennessee. Interestingly, the only other former president to serve in Congress—Rep. John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts—unsuccessfully pushed the impeachment of President John Tyler.
It was in the home state of Adams that the recently-pardoned Bannon made his pitch to Republicans in Boston—not exactly MAGA country—for Trump’s comeback to serve as speaker of the House.
“He’ll come back to us. We’ll have a sweeping victory in 2022, and he'll lead us in 2024,” Bannon told the GOP gathering. “We totally get rid of Nancy Pelosi, and the first act of President Trump as speaker will be to impeach Joe Biden for his illegitimate activities of stealing the presidency.”
A Trump speakership and Biden impeachment seem far-fetched—but Trump in Congress may even be more plausible than a messy 2024 presidential run.
Winning a seat in very blue South Florida is not likely, but a Panhandle district is very amenable. Or with his wealth, Trump could establish residence in any number of red states he won with little effort and perhaps run for a Senate or a House seat. But Congress or the presidency is likely an “either/or" matter rather than an “and,” as Bannon framed it.
While the aforementioned Morning Consult poll found 59 percent saying Trump should lead the Republican Party, just 54 percent said they would support him again for president—a solid majority but not overwhelming. Further, the poll found that 51 percent of the overall public believes the Senate was wrong to acquit him in the impeachment trial.
Trump himself was uncertain about running in 2024, telling Newsmax, “I won’t say yet, but we have tremendous support. And I’m looking at poll numbers are through the roof.”
“I’m the only guy who gets impeached and my numbers go up,” Trump added,
It’s true using the same polling firm, Morning Consult, found Trump’s numbers jumped 18 points after acquittal compared to the immediate aftermath of the Capitol Hill riot on Jan. 6.
As for the “only guy”—well, impeached President Bill Clinton managed a bump in polling after his 1999 Senate acquittal. Unlike Johnson, Clinton didn’t go to Congress afterward, but his wife did before spectacularly losing two presidential races.
Readers of “Abuse of Power” know Trump’s enemies set out to impeach him since before he was inaugurated. Ultimately, they impeached him twice—the second time with a bipartisan footprint. Most people wouldn’t be eager to walk back into that mess—even though Trump seems to like chaos. As a member of Congress, Trump may have to fend off a few ethics complaints from Democrats. But that process only holds fellow members accountable in the rarest of circumstances, and the scrutiny won’t be as deep. Meanwhile, Trump would show up to vote and make speeches and continue to have a platform to promote the MAGA movement at those national rallies he loves.
Who knows if Trump and Bannon are on speaking terms aside from the last-day pardon. Bannon helped run his shockingly successful 2016 campaign, but was fired as a White House adviser suspected of leaking. He was charged with allegedly trying to scam Trump supporters, for which Trump got him off the hook.
Still, while Trump tweeted about “Sloppy Steve,” Bannon always publicly heaped praise on Trump. If Trump doesn’t bring Bannon back into the fold, he might take his advice on a congressional run. Bannon isn’t always on the mark—but might be on to something in this case.
Like Trump, the aforementioned Presidents Adams and Johnson were rejected by the political opposition as illegitimate presidents. Both of those found life after the White House, and Adams in particularly wielded tremendous influence over the country from his House seat.
Trump still divides Republicans. Polling shows he also wields undeniable influence among a strong voter base for at least the near term—even though half the country apparently supported the second impeachment. A congressional career keeps that platform intact without breaking up the GOP over presidential politics.
Fred Lucas is the author of “Abuse of Power: The Three Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump,” (Bombardier Books, 2020) and White House correspondent for The Daily Signal.