Mike Johnson blames Biden having ‘senior moment’ for Israel aid decision


House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) questioned whether President Joe Biden’s comments threatening to withhold aid from Israel were due to cognitive decline.

In an interview with Politico, Johnson, fresh off defeating an effort to unseat him as speaker, expressed shock over Biden’s remarks Wednesday night, in which the president said the United States would cut off the flow of offensive weapons to Israel if it went through with its invasion of Rafah. The House speaker said it was so foreign to the sentiment expressed in private conversations that he believes Biden may have slipped up.

President Joe Biden, with from left, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), pray and listen during the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“And my reaction honestly was: Wow, that is a complete turn from what I have been told even in, you know, recent hours,” Johnson said. “I mean, 24 hours ago, it was confirmed to me by top administration officials that the policy’s very different than what he stated there. So I hope that’s a senior moment.”

“I hope — I believe he’s off script,” he said. “I don’t think that’s something that staff told him to say. I hope it’s a senior moment because that would be a great deviation in what is said to be the policy there.”

The House speaker added that administration officials had assured him previously that initial reports that aid could be cut off in the event of a Rafah invasion weren’t accurate.

“I was in the SCIF having classified discussions with some top administration officials,” Johnson said. “My concern was we got word about these, you know, this shipment of munitions being delayed. And that was a great concern to us because I got commitments from top administration officials before we passed the supplemental package for the aid to Israel that that would not happen.”

He described a confused back-and-forth over Israeli aid, moving him to speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly.

“So yesterday, I talked with Prime Minister Netanyahu about it, and I wanted to get confirmation from him exactly what’s happening. And he described exactly what was happening before the news was confirmed,” Johnson said. “I went straight to the White House, and I said, ‘What gives? Somebody’s going to have to explain this to me because it’s very different than what I was told.’”

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He added that he felt betrayed by the turnaround.

Johnson wasn’t alone in his harsh criticism of Biden over his remarks, with many Republicans expressing outrage over the move. Some erstwhile allies joined Republicans in criticizing the president over the decision, such as Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA).

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