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Rove: Freedom Caucus did Trump ‘grave disservice’

Republican strategist Karl Rove on Thursday criticized the conservative House Freedom Caucus for recently helping sink GOP healthcare legislation.

“The Freedom Caucus did [President Trump] a grave disservice by killing the process of this bill, moving this bill forward,” Rove said of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on Fox News’s "America’s Newsroom."

Rove argued that Trump is wrong to be lashing out at members of the conservative group following the collapse of the bill last week to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

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“The president needs to rise above this,” Rove said. "I just wish he wasn’t punching down. Let others punch down for him. He ought to be focused on other things.”

“He can ramp up the pressure, but the pressure is better done in private than in public. In public, they’re going to bow their backs [and] not look like they’re caving."

Trump blasted the conservative group early Thursday, vowing he would “fight” its members during the 2018 midterm elections.

“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast,” Trump tweeted. "We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!”

The comments underscored an escalating feud within the GOP, potentially threatening the success of his legislative agenda and adding another wrinkle to party tensions ahead of a vote on a spending bill to keep the government open beyond an April 29 deadline.

GOP leaders abandoned the AHCA last Friday after dozens of moderate and conservative Republicans refused to back it ahead of a crucial House floor vote. Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats MORE (R-Wis.) pulled the bill after it became apparent it lacked the votes to pass.

Freedom Caucus members campaigned hard against the bill, arguing it did not reverse enough of ObamaCare. Many remained opposed to the legislation, even after changes were made that were aimed at placating their concerns.