Hungarian Conservative

‘Hungary stands to gain a lot from a second Trump presidency’ — An Interview with Hungarian American Congressional Aide Johnny Szani

Johnny Szani, Republican Congressman Pete Sauber’s aide at CPAC Hungary on 26 April 2024.
Tamás Gyurkovits/Hungarian Conservative
‘Hopefully, under a second Trump administration, we’re going to see a new high in Hungarian⁠–⁠American relations that we haven’t seen since Kossuth visited America back in the 1850s,’ Republican Congressional Aide Johnny Szani pointed out in an interview with Hungarian Conservative.

Johnny Szani and his family moved to the United States when he was just five years old. Despite spending most of his life overseas, he remains proud of his Hungarian heritage. Currently, he serves as an aide to Republican Congressman Pete Sauber in the US House of Representatives. He has also worked with former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Republican Congressman Andy Harris, and former Hungarian President Katalin Novák, among others. In a recent interview with Hungarian Conservative, Szani discussed various topics, including US support for Ukraine and the relationship between Hungary and the United States.


After months of stalemate, both the US House of Representatives and the Senate have passed the Ukraine aid bill. What happened to show such significant bipartisan unity behind the bill?

The bill itself refers to aid for not only Ukraine, but for Israel and Taiwan as well. Democrats and neoconservative Republicans are seeking to quantify those countries and provide the aid. We haven’t sent any aid to Ukraine in months, so this is kind of a big deal that we were able to pass it. The major movement, however, was that Trump and Biden both endorsed the spending bill. To send over the Ukraine aid, they compromised within the Senate, so that’s why they were able to pass it. It’s really a compromise between Democrats and Republicans: the very hardline conservatives voted against it because of the aid to Ukraine, and the very hardline leftists, Democrats, voted against it because of the aid to Israel. So it really has to be a bipartisan process, which is kind of wholesome, regardless of what you think of the bill. It’s great to see the two sides coming together to fix something. It’s not very often that you see Biden and Trump working together on something. They both endorse the same thing. That’s so rare.

For a long time, many Republicans have stated their reluctance to provide unconditional financial and military support to Ukraine. Does the current aid package not resemble a blank cheque?

The US and the EU counts money very differently. When the EU sends money to Ukraine, they count the physical money that they want to provide. The US doesn’t do that. So in the aid package, for example, there’s about, I think, a couple billion dollars, most of it is sent to domestic manufacturers. They produce those military grade weapons in the US and they send them to Ukraine. So

it still generates GDP wealth for the United States

because those Israeli and Ukrainian weapons are built by American companies, by American workers, and then sent abroad.

So, in fact, aiding Ukraine is somewhat beneficial for the American people—or at the very least, less detrimental than it is for Europeans?

Right, especially in heavy manufacturing districts, which are often swing districts like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio; these are places where people need the jobs. And the military industrial complex provides a lot of jobs. So we make the weapons in-house in the United States, and then we ship them abroad. But that still counts as money sent in aid to Ukraine.

With just over seven months remaining until the presidential elections in November, the war in Ukraine has unsurprisingly emerged as a key focal point in the campaign. How might Washington’s stance evolve depending on the outcome of the elections?

Trump in many respect was a peacemaker. Under Obama and under Biden, we’ve seen an increasing amount of conflicts in the Middle East and in Ukraine. Putin invaded Ukraine under Obama in 2014 and then again under Biden. On the other hand, Trump was the one that had the Abraham Accord signed, which was a historic agreement where several Arab nations, previously unwilling to recognize Israel, formally established diplomatic ties with the country. Trump is very vocal about the idea that he’s going to force Zelenskyy to try negotiating, he’s going to try to end the war. Under a continued Biden presidency, it’s the complete opposite. We’re very much going to see a blank cheque for Ukraine. Under a potential Trump presidency there’s going to be a

pressure on the Ukrainian administration to compromise with the Russians and find a meaningful path forward to resolve the war.

Trump’s been very vocal about—as well as Viktor Orbán—that we don’t know if Ukraine and Zelenskyy can win the war, but we know we can prolong it if we send them more guns. That’s really all we have been doing so far. Under Trump’s presidency, we might see a resolution to a lot of the conflicts going on under the Biden administration.

Ukraine is also one of the reasons why relations between Washington and Budapest have reached a historic low. How might this dynamic change if there were to be a second Trump presidency?

We’re in a uniquely bad spot. We’re in a spot where the US State Department asks the Hungarian government to provide them with a list of all Hungarian citizens residing in the US. That’s a very real impressing issue. We’ve had the double tax suspended, now Hungarian citizens will have to pay double taxes in both the US and Hungary. And then we have Ambassador David Pressman, known for his vocal criticism of the Orbán government. Under a Trump administration, governmental agencies and ministries would approach Hungary very differently. If you look at USAID (US Agency for International Development – ed.), the US companies responsible for aid in economic stimulation in European countries, they’ve been uniquely hostile to the Orbán administration. USAID and State Department under Trump would be a lot friendlier, providing a lot more economic opportunities. I think the best thing we’d see from a Trump administration is a closer military and defence cooperation, which I know is very important for both countries. It is also important to note that Orbán is unique because he has a very similar ideology to Trump. Orbán was the first person to endorse Trump in 2016, and Trump only endorsed one foreign leader, and it was the Hungarian prime minister back in 2022.

According to Szani, USAID and State Department under Trump would be a lot friendlier towards Hungary than it is now under Joe Biden’s rule. PHOTO: Tamás Gyurkovits/Hungarian Conservative

On the other hand, a second Biden presidency would almost certainly mean worse relations between the two countries. We wouldn’t have an ambassador change, the State Department would continue to allegedly fund the Hungarian opposition, and continue to be hostile towards Hungarian economic interests, both for Hungarian Americans and domestically.

While Viktor Orbán and Donald Trump share some common perspectives on the world, there are notable differences in their foreign policies, particularly regarding their relationship with China. How might these disparities be reconciled in the future?

I was speaking to a couple Trump advisors recently and they explained it pretty well. They told me that national interests and national sovereignty has different flavours. What is America first isn’t necessarily always what’s Hungary first. While America can prioritize a trade war with China, that something Hungary can economically not afford to do. So what’s in the interest of Hungary isn’t always in the interest of the United States, but broadly speaking, there’s a lot more things we can work together on. I think the Trump administration is willing to accept that.

All things considered, as Hungarians, we stand to gain a lot from a second Trump administration. Many American conservatives and Republicans are increasingly drawn to Hungarian-style conservatism. They like national conservatism, they like what they’re seeing here, and they want to work with us and they like to use us as role models. When I work on the Hill, people say: ‘Oh, you’re Hungarian. How’s it like? What’s it like under Orbán? I heard it’s a very safe country. I love your immigration policies, I love your anti-war stances.’ What the Republicans are starting to understand is that Orbán hits on the issues that everyone can seemingly agree on. Most of Orbán’s stances are not very controversial. No gender, no war, no immigration. These are things that the American populace can also relate to on a personal level. I think that’s something we can export. Hopefully, under a second Trump administration, we’re going to see a new high in Hungarian⁠–⁠American relations that we haven’t seen since Kossuth visited America back in the 1850s.

Read more on CPAC Hungary 2024:

‘Polish conservative media needs international protection’ — An Interview with Ordo Iuris Co-Founder Jerzy Kwaśniewski‘
‘I want to see my country grow like Hungary’ — Blockbuster Film ‘Sound of Freedom’ Producer Eduardo Verástegui Praises Hungarian Leadership
‘Hopefully, under a second Trump administration, we’re going to see a new high in Hungarian⁠–⁠American relations that we haven’t seen since Kossuth visited America back in the 1850s,’ Republican Congressional Aide Johnny Szani pointed out in an interview with Hungarian Conservative.