It was earlier this year when Peter Navarro, a former White House insider and a prominent voice in Trump World, lashed out at the House Republican leadership. "Kevin McCarthy has to go," Navarro said. "He no longer has the confidence of the MAGA portion of the Republican Party."
In all likelihood, few on Capitol Hill cared about Navarro's assessment, but there was a bigger picture to consider: The more people in Donald Trump's orbit took aim at the House minority leader, the more precarious McCarthy's future appeared.
This came to mind again yesterday, when Mark Meadows, the former president's White House chief of staff, appeared on Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz's podcast and shared some criticisms of the House GOP leadership. Though Meadows didn't reference McCarthy by name, he said, while complaining about the bipartisan success of the infrastructure package, "If you're going to be the Speaker of the House, you've got to be able to control those members and those members with particular positions of authority."
Again, the market for Meadows' political analysis is limited, but the more his commentary reflects Trump's views, the more relevant they appear.
What's more, as Politico noted, that's not all the North Carolina Republican had to say.
Then, Meadows suggested Donald, his former boss, should become House Speaker if the GOP flips the House in 2022.... "I would love to see the gavel go from Nancy Pelosi to Donald Trump," Meadows said on Steve Bannon's podcast. "You talk about melting down, people would go crazy!"
In case this isn't obvious, these are not two separate stories. Meadows publicly complaining about McCarthy's leadership, before touting Trump as Pelosi's possible successor, are two sides to the same coin: Some in the former president's inner circle clearly want it to be known that the House minority leader is coming up short.
As for the larger question — could Trump become Speaker of the House? — I'm glad you asked.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, it was Bannon — who used to advise the former president, who benefited from a presidential pardon after his first federal indictment — who helped get the ball rolling on this months ago, touting a scenario in which House Republicans take back the majority and support Trump as their new Speaker. This is technically possible: Under House rules, members can elect anyone as Speaker, not just sitting members.
Under the fanciful hypothetical, once Trump held the gavel, he could start exacting revenge against those who defeated him, launching investigations into imagined scandals, and even initiating impeachment proceedings against President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
In June, the former president himself was asked about the idea and replied, "That's so interesting.... Yeah, you know it's very interesting.... It's very interesting."
Chatter in conservative media soon followed.
At a certain level, it would be a drama worthy of Shakespeare if McCarthy, after all of the sycophantic support he's offered Trump in the hopes of advancing his own personal ambitions, failed to get the job he wanted because Trump took it for himself.
But in all likelihood, the entire scheme is extraordinarily unlikely. For one thing, there's no guarantee the GOP will take back the House. For another, if Republicans succeed in claiming a majority, it's impossible to imagine McCarthy voluntarily standing aside and giving up the position he's wanted for years.
What's more, it's an incredibly difficult and time consuming job, which Trump would absolutely hate.
That does not mean, however, that the chatter is irrelevant. Much of the political world has largely assumed that the 2022 midterm elections would be the first cycle since 2014 in which Trump wasn't directly relevant. The louder the conversation about him possibly eyeing the Speaker's gavel, the more it'll seem as if Trump is effectively on the midterm ballot.
Indeed, as Meadows, Bannon, and others keep this strange fire burning, it seems almost inevitable that some congressional Democrats will tell voters, "A vote for my opponent is a vote to put Donald Trump in Congress' most powerful job."
Similarly, it may soon become inevitable that GOP candidates will be asked an awkward question: "Would you consider Trump for House Speaker?"
I wonder how they'd respond — and how the former president might react to their answers.