Turns out when Trump tweeted early Thursday morning that we “must fight” the Freedom Caucus in 2018, that wasn’t just idle time-wasting while he was sitting on the can.
Interesting that Dan Scavino, Trump’s official social-media guy, would zero in on Amash for threats instead of, say, Mark Meadows or Rand Paul, both of whom were more prominent critics of the failed House health-care bill. Amash’s sin seems not to be that he helped take down TrumpCare but that he’s been lippy about it.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 30, 2017
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@DanScavino) March 31, 2017
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 31, 2017
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@DanScavino) April 1, 2017
Amash was ready for that last tweet:
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) April 1, 2017
Wouldn’t be the first term someone’s come at Amash in a primary. Business-class Republicans dislike him because of his libertarianism, which makes him a reliable “no” vote on federal spending. They recruited a primary challenger for him in 2014 with backing from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; that candidate, Brian Ellis, accused Amash at one point of being “Al Qaeda’s best friend in Congress” due to his civil libertarian stances. Amash won that race 57/43, then went on to win the general election that year by nearly 20 points. Last year he won by more than 20 and in so doing outperformed Trump, who won Amash’s district by just 10 points over Clinton. Ousting Amash, you see, won’t be easy. And given how ideological he is, it’s a cinch that not only won’t he bend under Scavino’s threats (see the last tweet above as Exhibit A), he’ll use the extra media attention he’ll get from it to amplify his criticism. If Trump goes all-in now to try to beat him in a primary and Amash wins anyway, it’ll be the Renee Ellmers humiliation all over again but times 100.
Relatedly, it was three weeks ago that the Examiner reported that Trump had warned House Republicans in a meeting that he’d back primary challenges to them if the health-care bill went belly up. The White House pushed back hard on that story at the time, insisting it never happened — which was smart spin given that the bill was still in play and a public rift between Trump and the Freedom Caucus would have only made it that much harder to find consensus. How does that Examiner story look now, though, three weeks later, with Trump vowing to “fight” the Freedom Caucus in 2018 and Scavino singling out individual members as targets? Amash isn’t even the only conservative to receive a communique from the White House that his seat is on the line. Mark Sanford claims Mick Mulvaney delivered a threat from Trump personally:
The South Carolina Republican told The Post and Courier that Trump chose to convey this message through an intermediary: White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney, a former member of the S.C. congressional delegation, co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus and a friend.
“‘The president asked me to look you square in the eyes and to say that he hoped that you voted ‘no’ on this bill so he could run (a primary challenger) against you in 2018,'” Sanford said Mulvaney told him.
He added that Mulvaney made it clear he did not want to deliver the message but did so at Trump’s insistence.
Sounds like the president’s planning to fight a two-front war against the left and right in 2018. Just what you’d expect a man with the massive political capital that comes with a 41 percent job approval rating to do.
Here’s Amash on Thursday comparing Trump’s strongarm tactics to how fifth-graders try to persuade critics. An interesting catch by the Hill, meanwhile: Sean Hannity addressed Trump’s tweet about “fighting” the Freedom Caucus on his show on Thursday night and … seemed to side with the Caucus, claiming that Trump’s anger in scapegoating them for the bill’s failure was “misplaced.” Populist conservative media is going to be in a jam if the Trump/HFC feud escalates. Whom do they side with, the big-government populist president or the small-government conservative House faction? Does it depend on how many of Trump’s initiatives the Freedom Caucus ends up blocking?