House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) gave his first national television interview since winning the speaker’s gavel, sitting down for an hour with Fox News’s Sean Hannity.
During the interview, which aired Thursday night, the newly minted speaker offered his views on a wide range of issues, including the latest mass killing in Maine. Johnson, who previously was a lesser-known conservative, also addressed his first major challenge: ensuring the government is funded before a looming Nov. 17 deadline.
Here are some highlights of what Johnson said he believes.
Johnson opened his interview by offering condolences to the victims of the mass killing Wednesday night in Lewiston, Maine, in which at least 18 people died and a massive manhunt for the suspected gunman followed.
“The end of the day, it’s — the problem is the human heart,” Johnson said. “It’s not guns, it’s not the weapons. At the end of the day, we have to protect the right of the citizens to protect themselves and that’s the Second Amendment, and that’s why our party stands so strongly for that.”
Johnson added it was “not the time to be talking legislation” because the crisis was ongoing.
Asked if there was any new gun legislation he would consider, Johnson demurred, saying he had only been in the job for 48 hours.
“We’ll see,” he said, before reiterating he thought it was “not the weapon, it’s the underlying issue.”
Johnson, who previously was a member of the Louisiana state legislature before being elected to Congress in 2016, has a long history of fighting against gay rights. Hannity asked about some of the comments he had made, some in writing, calling homosexuality “sinful, destructive” and his opposition to same-sex marriage.
“I don’t even remember some of them,” Johnson said of the comments, adding that he was a religious liberty defense lawyer who had been called upon to defend state amendments in court.
Johnson called himself “a rule of law guy” and acknowledged that when the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage, then “that became the law of the land.”
“I respect the rule of law, but I also genuinely love all people, regardless of their lifestyle choices,” Johnson told Hannity.
Later, Johnson seemed to criticize the fact that “five justices on the Supreme Court changed” the definition of marriage — a clip that was then blasted out by President Biden’s reelection campaign.
Though Johnson has recently voted against additional aid for Ukraine, in his interview he suggested he would be open to sending more funding to the Eastern European country as it continues fending off a Russian invasion — as long as it was in a separate package from aid to Israel. The White House has requested $61 billion in funding for Ukraine and $14 billion for Israel.
“I told the staff at the White House today that our consensus among House Republicans is we need to bifurcate those issues,” Johnson told Hannity, referring to a brief meeting he had with Biden earlier Thursday.
“Now we can’t allow Vladimir Putin to prevail in Ukraine because I don’t believe it would stop there, and it would probably encourage and empower China to perhaps make a move on Taiwan,” he added. “We have these concerns. We’re not going to abandon [Ukraine].”
Johnson, who until this week was a member of the House Judiciary Committee, seemed to suggest House Republicans would likely impeach Biden.
GOP lawmakers launched a formal impeachment inquiry into the president last month, alleging he accepted bribes from foreign sources in business dealings with his son and brother, but have not produced direct evidence that the president benefited from those dealings.
“If in fact all the evidence leads to where we believe it will, that’s very likely impeachable offenses,” Johnson said. “It looks and smells a lot like [bribery]. … The evidence is coming together. We’ll see where it leads.”
To avert a government shutdown after a Nov. 17 deadline, Johnson has proposed passing a stopgap funding bill, or continuing resolution, to fund the government until Jan. 15 or April 15.
Former House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) took the same approach to avoid a government shutdown last month — and it led to his ouster by hard-right Republicans who were furious that McCarthy had worked with Democrats.
Johnson told Hannity that another stopgap funding measure would need to be done “with certain conditions,” without specifying what those conditions would be.