After helping push out Kevin McCarthy, Steve Bannon is now trying the same playbook with Speaker Mike Johnson

Bannon continues to demand that House Republicans shut down the government unless Democrats agree to draconian spending cuts and further border militarization

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon is leading an effort to threaten Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) with removal, mere months after marshaling a similar campaign that deposed former Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from the same office last October.

Bannon’s War Room podcast has now served as the staging ground for two successive attacks on the top leadership position in the House of Representatives, which Republicans control with a narrow majority going into 2024. The fights have mostly centered around federal spending levels and Republican attempts to further militarize the U.S. southern border. Bannon and his guests have consistently opposed any attempts by McCarthy — and now, Johnson — to make any compromises at all with House Democrats, the Senate, or the White House.

With a government shutdown looming once again, Bannon is running the playbook for a second time. Although Bannon and his guests have been criticizing Johnson since November — just weeks into the new speaker’s tenure — the attacks have escalated in recent days.

Bannon interviewed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) on Thursday, demanding House Republicans shut the government down if Congress can’t “secure the border” — thus perpetuating a long-standing conservative myth that the U.S. has an “open border.”

“If I was speaker of the House, I’d finish the job in the House,” Greene said. “I’d pass the appropriation bills, and then I’d tell Chuck Schumer in the Senate, ‘It’s your job now, buddy. You do your work and then we’ll talk.’ But right now, Mike Johnson is getting rolled in meeting after meeting after meeting.”

“When he is talking to Jake Sullivan and Chuck Schumer every day and impressed with these four corners meetings, but he's not talking to me and other important members in our Republican conference at all about any of the negotiations and any of the plans and exactly what we want to see done, he's failing on the job,” she added.

After Greene’s appearance, Johnson was reportedly considering backing out of the funding deal he’d already agreed to with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Johnson was noncommittal about whether he’d stick to the deal, but other members of the House Freedom Caucus reportedly began drawing up an “alternate” plan with the speaker.

If the deal blows up, Bannon’s coverage from this week will likely be one of the key reasons.

On January 9, Bannon interviewed Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), former chairman of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus. 

Referring to Johnson, Bannon said, “I question whether he has a three-digit IQ or not.” 

“This is a season for a fight, and he just doesn’t have it,” Bannon said, adding, “You’ve got to move on.”

“Your incompetence is shocking,” Bannon added.

The next day, Bannon escalated the drumbeat, suggesting that “maybe it's time to look for a replacement” for Johnson. 

“I'm all for it,” he continued. “I keep saying his speakership is going to be in weeks, not months, and just — that's the way it is.”

Before speaking with Greene on Thursday, Bannon interviewed former Trump official Russ Vought, an influential shaper of conservative policy from his perch at the MAGA-aligned Center for Renewing America

“I am one of the biggest critics of Mike Johnson right now,” Vought said. “He is bowing to the fear of a government shutdown within his own ranks. I think he should stand up to that fear, like Congressman Greene would have him do, but he's not.”

The story was the same on Bannon’s account on Gettr, a social media platform that was recently named in a federal indictment as an entity in an alleged criminal conspiracy carried out by longtime Bannon associate Miles Guo.

Over the course of the week, Bannon shared news articles about his campaign for Johnson’s ouster. He added his own commentary to the posts: “Johnson Scrambles to Save His Job”; “MAGA Patriots Grind Johnson’s Agenda to a Halt on House Floor Over His Surrender to Democrats on Government Funding”; and “Operation to Remove Johnson Underway and Building Momentum…’Stand and Deliver or Move On.’” 

He also shared an image of 13 Republicans who voted against the government funding deal (including Greene and Biggs) with the caption “Patriots Rising,” and promised that “the Fight Between the ‘Warring Wings’ of the Party Will Continue Unabated—Until the Right Wing Wins.”

The entire episode is reminiscent of Bannon’s anti-McCarthy campaign in 2023. 

Last May, Bannon called McCarthy a “Total and Complete Sell-Out” on Gettr after a report that the then-speaker had agreed to a debt ceiling deal with President Joe Biden. Then in June, Bannon told his viewers to “close your checkbooks. Don't give any money to McCarthy,” because he’d supposedly weakened Republicans’ bargaining position in the ongoing budget fight.  

By September, Bannon had worked himself into a frenzy. 

“Why have you not done anything in the first nine months?” Bannon asked, addressing McCarthy and other top House Republicans. In a rant that lasted more than six minutes, Bannon said McCarthy “lies,” called him “weak,” and demanded the then-speaker “stand up and be a man.”    

McCarthy was out as speaker by early October, but Bannon wasn’t finished. On October 4, 2023, three of the eight House Republicans who voted for McCarthy’s ouster appeared on War Room to justify their votes — and even more importantly, to beg for money from Bannon’s viewers.

Whether Johnson will suffer McCarthy’s fate remains to be seen. But if Bannon is successful in removing or drastically weakening the new GOP speaker heading into the 2024 election — and possibly marginalizing the House Freedom Caucus along the way — it could very well end up as a double-digit IQ move for the former Trump strategist.