House Speaker Mike Johnson Says He Hopes Biden’s Latest Announcement On Israel Aid Was ‘A Senior Moment’

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House Republican Speaker Mike Johnson told Politico Wednesday evening that he hopes President Joe Biden’s announcement that he would shut off sending offensive aid to Israel if it goes into the populated areas of Rafah was “a senior moment.”

Biden threatened to condition aid to Israel on Wednesday, telling CNN that he won’t be “supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities.” Johnson reacted to the news in an interview with Politico, and said he believes the president “went off-script” in his announcement because it was different than what he said administration officials had told him just hours earlier.

“My reaction, honestly, was, ‘Wow, that is a complete turn from what I have been told, even in, you know, recent hours,’” Johnson told Politico. “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.” (RELATED: Biden Threatens To Halt Weapons To Israel ‘If They Go Into Rafah’)

Johnson told the outlet that he met with administration officials in the sensitive compartmented information facility [SCIF] on Wednesday, where he was told that “there would be no delay whatsoever” in the “delivery of weapons to Israel.” The speaker added that he also spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and “he described exactly what was happening before the news was confirmed.”

“And then I went straight to the White House and I said … ‘Somebody’s going to have to explain this to me, because it’s very different than what I was told.’ And they said, ‘Oh, this has nothing to do with the supplemental package that you all passed,” Johnson relayed to Politico. “So this statement by the president tonight, I just want to — I hope, I believe he’s off-script. I don’t think that’s something that staff told him to say.”

U.S. President Joe Biden disembarks from Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., following a weekend in Delaware, May 6, 2024. REUTERS/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

U.S. President Joe Biden disembarks from Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., following a weekend in Delaware, May 6, 2024. (REUTERS/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

Biden signed legislation on April 24 to provide $15 billion in military assistance to Israel, with an additional $9 billion for humanitarian aid, along with billions more to help Ukraine and Taiwan. The package also included language that could force the sale of TikTok, as well as provisions to put pressure on Iran and China.

However, if Biden did intend to threaten conditioning offensive aid to Israel during his CNN interview, Johnson signaled that he’d feel betrayed after Congress passed the foreign supplemental package.

“We’ve been very deliberate. We’ve been very open — very much in good faith,” Johnson said. “The Congress expressed its will through that vote. And so for the administration to make such a huge deviation in policy without, you know, any consultation with us — and in defiance of what we quite literally just voted on here days ago — to me, it raises a lot of alarm.”

The White House fired back at Johnson’s sentiment in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation, with spokesperson Andrew Bates arguing it’s “simply false.”

“In fact, senior administration officials had already made multiple public statements about Rafah similar to the President’s, including that we are also ensuring Israel gets every dollar appropriated in the supplemental,” Bates said. “For example, hours before the President’s interview, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin gave congressional testimony that aligned with him.”

“To be fair, we understand the Speaker has a lot to keep up with. Joe Biden is the only president in our history to have ordered the American military to actively defend Israel from a foreign attack, and the only president to have literally stood with Israel – on Israeli soil – during wartime,” Bates added.

Biden has faced political pressure from his left flank over his support for Israel’s war on Gaza following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack, with protest primary votes popping up in key states like Michigan. The president has since become more critical of Israel’s counteroffensive due to the number of civilian casualties as the election draws nearer.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comment from the White House.

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