Members of the House Freedom Caucus sat down for an interview with the Washington Examiner on Thursday following President Trump tweeting about the apparent “need” to “fight” the Freedom Caucus ahead of the 2018 elections.
Chairman Mark Meadows, interestingly enough, indicated the disagreements weren’t with the executive branch, but rather with aides working closely with the president.
Short answer? Meadows is probably 100 percent correct.
“He’s got a number of advisers around him that are used to the way that Washington, D.C., does business,” Meadows said. “They are giving him advice based on what they’ve known has worked or not worked over the last two decades here in Washington, D.C. So, do I blame the president [for the failure of the American Health Care Act]? No.”
Meadows was then pressed to name aides in particular that he thought were driving a wedge between the president and the Caucus.
Meadows, not taking the bait, vaguely added: “In general, I just say he’s not being well-served.”
Meadows circled back to Trump’s aides a second time in the interview when he said, “Campaigning one way and legislating another is a recipe for disaster. And we’re trying to keep our president from disaster because of the advice that he’s getting.”
Thursday, just a few hours before the interview, Trump sent out a tweet suggesting the Freedom Caucus would be the enemy in 2018.
The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2017
Trump supported the Tea Party and the grassroots movement a lot while on the campaign trail, so it makes sense that someone close to him in the White House has convinced him that they are now the enemy because they opposed his terrible health care bill.
Meadows added: “The narrative is not surprising in the White House because some of his advisers are suggesting that there was consensus and that we pulled the rug out. Nothing could be farther from the truth.”
Who could Meadows be talking about? Some have suggested chief strategist Steve Bannon or senior aide Stephen Miller, but the more likely culprit is chief of staff Reince Priebus.
Priebus and House Speaker Paul Ryan have been good friends for many years. In fact, Priebus was chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party (the same state Ryan hails from) before becoming Republican National Committee chairman.
It would make sense that Priebus would have defended Paul Ryan’s health care bill to the president while suggesting the Caucus is the enemy for opposing it.
Other major aides to the president, such as Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller, would more than likely push the president towards the Caucus, not away from it.
The health care fallout has put many Republicans in a bind they never thought they would have to deal with, including Trump.
Work with the House Freedom Caucus, which is the arm of the Tea Party that propelled Trump greatly in the election. Or side with Paul Ryan and Reince Preibus, seen by many as establishment foes that Trump ran against.
2018 elections will be crucial for control of the Senate. Trump better choose his team wisely, as we will remember this moment when he is up for re-election in 2020.