President Donald Trump didn't take his first big policy defeat—the failure to pass the American Health Care Act—terribly well, heading to Twitter to complain and blame, particularly the members of the Republican House Freedom Caucus who refused to get behind the legislation.
Matt Welch already blogged last week the president declaring war on the Freedom Caucus, noting the president's vague threat that they need to be "fought" (as in, primaried) in 2018, and also the generalized stupidity of Trump behaving in such a way that jeopardizes the ability of the GOP to pass anything at all (cutting out the Freedom Caucus eliminates most of the Republican advantage in the House). Trump's goal, obviously, is to try to shove those Republicans out in favor of those who are more likely to give his agenda a thumb's up.
Over the weekend, the attacks became a bit more specific when Dan Scavino Jr., Trump's director of social media, went after caucus member and libertarian fave Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan. Scavino's tweet got national media attention as it specifically called for Amash's defeat in the primary:
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@DanScavino) April 1, 2017
Amash was not remotely intimidated and responded with a "bring it on" tweet (I mean, it actually used the words "Bring it On") and is now openly fundraising off an attack by what he's calling the #Trumpstablishment:
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) April 1, 2017
There's a whole debate now over whether Scavino violated the Hatch Act (which restricts government employees' direct involvement in political activities) and should be fired. Without dismissing the idea that there's a problem when executive branch employees start openly trying to affect congressional elections, Trump and his administration are themselves arguing on a daily basis that the Democrats are openly trying to take them down, not just oppose their agenda. Scavino's response was to essentially push even harder on Twitter, dismissing political ethical critics as an example of those trying to harm Trump.
It's really more of an example of the Trump administration now openly engaging in behavior that political party establishments used to politely keep behind the scenes in order to at least keep the intraparty fireworks at street level.
After all, if Amash does face a strong, well-funded primary challenge from within the Republican Party, it won't be the first time. There's a reason and a tactic behind lumping Trump in as part of the establishment. Back in 2014, Amash faced a well-funded primary neocon antagonist who went after him for opposing mass federal surveillance, going so far as to call him "al Qaeda's best friend in Congress."
It didn't work, and Amash won handily in the primary. Looks like he's prepping for the possibility of another "establishment"-funded fight.
On the other hand, Trump went golfing with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), a major Amash ally, over the weekend, and they talked about health care. It's possible the tweets are just frustrated rants from an administration that has no message discipline and doesn't think it needs any. We will see next year.
Below, watch a ReasonTV interview with Amash: