President Trump on Saturday gave full backing to House Minority Leader, D-Calif., taking the speaker’s gavel when the Democrats take the House in January -- telling reporters he would get her Republican votes if she needed them, and that those considering a challenge to her “are wasting their time.”
“I like her, can you believe it?” Trump told reporters outside the White House before departing for California. “She’s tough and she’s smart, but she deserves to be speaker.”
Trump’s unlikely support comes as Pelosi faces a tough path to regaining the gavel -- which she held between 2007-11, the last time Democrats controlled the House. While Pelosi had said she is “confident” she will be speaker, at least 17 House Democrats have signed onto a document saying they won’t support her. Meanwhile, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, is mulling a leadership challenge and said she will announce her decision after Thanksgiving.
To get the gavel, Pelosi will first need to pick up a majority of the Democratic caucus in internal leadership elections, then go on to win an absolute majority of the House. If all those Democrats joined Republicans in voting against Pelosi on the floor, Pelosi would not have the votes for speaker.
But Trump told reporters that he would get Republicans to vote for her in the House if she needed Republican support.
"I don't imagine she'd need too many but whatever number of votes she needs, if it's 50, or 10, or two or one, she's got them from me -- automatic," he said. "So tell her opposition they're wasting their time."
Trump did not give any indication that the support was a genuine act of bipartisanship or a political calculation, given Pelosi’s unpopularity in some part of the country. But Republican strategist Chris Wilson said on “Fox and Friends” on Friday that it was “the best thing in the world for Republicans” to have her as speaker.
"She reminds the American people why they don't like politics. She reminds them why they don't like Democrats, quite frankly," he said.
Trump tweeted earlier Saturday that he can get her “as many votes as she wants” in order to be speaker.
On Thursday, Republican Tom Reed said that if Pelosi embraced a bipartisan package of rules reforms that would make it easier for members to get legislation to the floor, he could envision supporting her.
“A Democratic candidate who embraces these rules reforms, I will stand with,” he told CNN. “I am so frustrated with this institution being a top-down driven organization...it is time to change this and if Nancy Pelosi is the only one that’s there, I’m open to it.”
Pelosi, however, has dismissed the idea that she might need Republican support.
"Oh please, never," she said. "Never, never, come on."
"I intend to win the speakership with Democratic votes," she later said, adding that she had "overwhelming support" in her caucus.
Fox News’ Alex Pappas, Chad Pergram and Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.