Speaker Johnson says Biden 'betrayed' him with Israel threat, hopes it was 'senior moment'

 May 10, 2024

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said Wednesday that he felt "betrayed" by President Joe Biden because of Biden's threat to withhold heavy weapons from Israel if it attacked Rafah with a ground invasion, and that he hoped it was a "senior moment," rather than a policy decision.

Johnson's comments came shortly after he defeated an attempt by a few Republicans to oust him from the position of speaker, so he was in a good mood.

“I made it clear that if they go into Rafah — they haven’t gone in Rafah yet — if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities — that deal with that problem,” Biden said in a CNN town hall, despite the fact that he signed a Congress-passed aid bill less than two weeks ago and agreed to give him the weapons.

“And my reaction honestly was: Wow, that is a complete turn from what I have been told even in, you know, recent hours,” Johnson said. “I mean, 24 hours ago it was confirmed to me by top administration officials that the policy’s very different than what he stated there. So I hope that’s a senior moment.”

Breaking commitments

Johnson said he had asked administration officials specifically whether Biden planned to withhold weapons from Israel and had been told it wouldn't happen.

“I was in the SCIF having classified discussions with some top administration officials,” he said, referring to a secure facility in the Capitol. “My concern was we got word about these, you know, this shipment of munitions being delayed. And that was a great concern to us because I got commitments from top administration officials before we passed the supplemental package for the aid to Israel that that would not happen.”

Johnson said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the pause in shipping the weapons when the two spoke recently.

“So yesterday, I talked with Prime Minister Netanyahu about it, and I wanted to get confirmation from him exactly what’s happening. And he described exactly what was happening before the news was confirmed,” he said. “I went straight to the White House, and I said, ‘What gives? Somebody’s going to have to explain this to me, because it’s very different than what I was told.’”

No plan

The administration is pausing larger-scale weapons that could be used in population centers like Rafah to kill civilians.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testified before Biden's CNN comments that the bomb shipment is being withheld because Israel had not come up with a plan to protect civilians in Rafah when they attack.

Johnson connected Biden's decision with the attempt to oust him, suggesting that stability was needed to navigate world events and situations.

“These are perilous times for the country,” he said. ”The world is on fire. There are hot wars around the globe. We have allies in jeopardy, our borders wide open. The cost of living is through the roof. The crime rates through the roof. We’re projecting weakness on the world stage. We got antisemitism and angry mobs on college campuses. This is no time for frivolous palace intrigue and politics. We have got to have a functioning Congress. And I think the large, you know, the landslide vote tonight against removing the speaker is a signal that I think people on both sides of the aisle obviously understand this is not a time for games.”

Eleven Republicans tried to force a motion to vacate Johnson's leadership as Speaker, but over 100 Democrats joined Republicans to kill the motion to vacate, effectively stopping the process.

Democrats were willing to support Johnson because he was willing to work together to pass the foreign aid package which included aid for Israel, but look where it got him--stabbed in the back by a Democrat (Biden) as usual.

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