Trump refuses to take sides between Matt Gaetz and Kevin McCarthy

Donald Trump appears to be sitting out the crisis of leadership occurring in the House Republican caucus, a move that may serve to strengthen Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s chances of remaining at its head.

A group of right-wing Republicans led by Matt Gaetz is likely to try to oust the GOP speaker of the House in the coming days following Mr McCarthy’s decision to cut a deal with Democrats to avert a government shutdown over the weekend. Those same holdouts had been pressuring Mr McCarthy to push forward only with budget resolutions that would require major cuts in federal spending, measures which were doomed to fail in the Senate if they even passed the lower chamber.

Mr Gaetz, a close ally of Donald Trump, had apparently been hoping to win the ex-president’s support for his crusade against Mr McCarthy — he indicated to reporters on Monday that he had spoken with Mr Trump on the matter, and played coy about how Mr Trump was leaning on the issue.

But the ex-president himself dispelled any notion of supporting Mr Gaetz’s bid to oust Mr McCarthy as speaker while at a campaign stop in Iowa.

“I don’t know anything about those efforts [to remove McCarthy], but I like both of them very much,” Mr Trump said, referring to the two House GOP figures.

His tepid response will at the minimum sap the political capital that Mr Gaetz is expending on this effort, which is already finding more critics than supporters among the House GOP conference — at least in terms of those members who are making their views known. House GOP leadership has rallied behind the speaker, while some of Mr Gaetz’s colleagues have taken to disparaging him in the press.

But the Florida Republican could still well be on his way to securing the votes of the majority of the GOP conference if members vote in any way similar to how they voted on a continuing resolution supported by Mr McCarthy on Saturday to avert a shutdown. A majority of Mr McCarthy’s caucus voted against his measure, while Democrats supported it.

Some have speculated that Mr McCarthy will attempt to cut a deal with Democrats once again to secure their votes for his continued service as speaker; any such arrangement would likely mean that he would have to make power-sharing or other concessions with the minority party.