Fleischmann touted ‘100 percent Trump’ field of speaker candidates

He ended up coming in last place among them

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Southeast Tennessee, speaks during the Memorial Day program at the Chattanooga National Cemetery on May 29.
Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Southeast Tennessee, speaks during the Memorial Day program at the Chattanooga National Cemetery on May 29.

NASHVILLE — As he launched his brief candidacy for speaker of the House on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Southeast Tennessee, apparently sent word to former President Donald Trump's people saying he was in.

"I'm in speaker race now," Fleischmann said in a text message made public by Trump on his Truth Social social media platform. "Please tell President Trump."

The congressman from Ooltewah went on to describe the field of candidates.

"Five left," Fleischmann texted during the first round of secret voting in the Republican Conference. "Voting now. All candidates now 100 percent Trump. All five. I preached Trump in my speech."

 

Fleischmann came in fifth out of five and was eliminated in that first round of voting. The conference later selected Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, as its speaker nominee.

Trump made no comment on the text exchange that he posted on Truth Social, which has received 3,000 reposts and 12,500 likes as of Wednesday evening.

Some on social media saw Trump's posting as an unseemly display of his grip on the GOP.

"Trump letting the whole country know how much he owns the next Speaker by posting this text from a congressman showing how much they are all kissing his ass," wrote Ron Filipkowski, a Florida attorney, self-described former Republican and editor-in-chief at the liberal website MeidasTouch. "Pathetic."

Fleischmann did not see it that way.

"Congressman Fleischmann texted President Trump's team to let the former-President know that every Republican running for Speaker supported him and his successful policies," his office said Wednesday in response to questions from the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "He appreciates the president's comments this morning, saying that Congressman Fleischmann, his good friend Rep. Mark Green, and the other candidates for Speaker were 'beyond reproach and represent the absolute best there is in the Republican Party.'"

Fleischmann, who received 10 votes in the first round of GOP conference voting Tuesday, later endorsed Johnson, the Louisiana Republican who ultimately emerged as the Republicans' nominee. Like Fleischmann, Johnson voted on Jan. 6, 2021, to object to the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

"@RepMikeJohnson will be a great and strong Speaker of the House," Fleischmann wrote on social media. "I fully support Mike as our Speaker-designee and will vote for him to be our Speaker on the House Floor!"

Johnson was elected speaker later Wednesday with unanimous Republican support.

(READ MORE: Burchett claims McCarthy mocked him for praying over move to oust the speaker)

Christopher Hale, a Tennessee Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Sherwood, weighed in on the Fleischmann texts as well.

"Chuck Fleischmann cares more about kissing Trump's ass than standing up for Tennesseans," Hale said on social media.

U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Ashland City, who had mounted his own bid only to lose in the second round of voting, went on to endorse Johnson as well. Green received 21 votes.

"It's time to unite behind Speaker-designate Johnson and to get back to work," Green said in a social media post. "I didn't run for Speaker of the House because I wanted the job. In fact, I said no to my colleagues multiple times. Yet after seeing the House without a Speaker for three weeks, unable to accomplish the People's business, I knew I had to throw my hat in the ring."

Green said, "It will take a unified Republican Conference to secure the border, cut inflationary spending, and preserve the Constitution — these are our ultimate goals. I'm ready to help Mike Johnson in leading us to accomplish these goals."

Tuesday evening's House GOP vote came after the conference's nominee, House Majority Whip Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., dropped out of the speaker's race hours after earning the GOP nomination.

Trump scuttled the Emmer nomination, posting on Truth Social to call the congressman "totally out-of-touch with Republican Voters" and a "Globalist RINO," according to Politico, referring to a "Republican in name only."

After Emmer withdrew, Trump told one supporter, "He's done. It's over. I killed him," according to Politico.

Prior to Emmer, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a staunch conservative and founder of the House Freedom Caucus, failed to secure the speakership last week. That came after U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., bowed out of the contest.

Fleischmann had been a staunch supporter of Scalise but got behind Jordan after Scalise bowed out, with Scalise realizing he wouldn't get sufficient support from fellow Republicans on the floor.

(READ MORE: Tennessee U.S. Rep. Fleischmann backs majority leader Scalise for House speaker)

Republicans won a slender majority in 2022 elections. They initially elected Republican Kevin McCarthy as House speaker. But a group of eight arch-conservative Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, a Knoxville Republican, moved to declare the speaker's seat vacant.

With the help of 208 Democrats, they cast McCarthy out of the chair Oct. 3, and it's been constant turmoil since.

ABC News on Wednesday reported Trump had put a new post on his social media platform, expressing his pleasure with the other speaker candidates described by Fleischmann as "100 percent Trump."

"Congratulations to Reps. Byron Donalds (Florida), Charles J. 'Chuck' Fleischmann (Tennessee), Mark Green (Tennessee), & Roger Williams (Texas), & the ultimate winner of yesterday's vote, by a significant margin, Mike Johnson (Louisiana)."

"I am not going to make an Endorsement in this race, because I COULD NEVER GO AGAINST ANY OF THESE FINE AND VERY TALENTED MEN, all of whom have supported me, in both mind and spirit, from the very beginning of our GREAT 2016 Victory," he continued.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-285-9480.


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