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Freedom Caucus to Trump: Lay off Sanford attacks

Freedom Caucus to Trump: Lay off Sanford attacks
© Greg Nash

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus on Monday urged President TrumpDonald John TrumpCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Five takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation MORE to drop his ongoing attacks against Rep. Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordOvernight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Haley shocks Washington with resignation | Turkish officials reportedly conclude Saudis killed journalist | Trump eyes second Kim summit after midterms GOP on timing of Haley’s announcement: 'Unusual' and 'odd' On The Money: House passes 4B spending bill to avert shutdown | Trump 'not happy' after Fed's latest rate hike | Trump says he refused meeting with Trudeau MORE (R-S.C.) in the wake of Sanford's primary loss earlier this month.

Trump mocked the South Carolina Republican in his home state at a campaign rally for Gov. Henry McMaster (R), saying he “never liked [Sanford] too much.”

"The Tallahassee Trail, must be a beautiful place," Trump said, misidentifying the Appalachian Trail while taking a dig at Sanford’s infamous affair during his time as governor. "Unfortunately for him, he didn't go there."

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Sanford, a vocal Trump critic, had originally explained away an extended absence from his time as governor by saying he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. In fact, he was in Argentina with a woman he was having an affair with.

During a closed-door meeting of the Freedom Caucus Monday evening, a number of lawmakers in the powerful group adamantly called for members to come out in defense of Sanford and condemn president’s repeated attacks against one of their own.

Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsConservative rep slams Rosenstein's 'conflicts of interest' The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Trump, Obama head to swing states with Senate majority in balance Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate MORE (R-N.C.) said the group stands by Sanford, who lost his reelection primary against state lawmaker Katie Arrington (R) hours after the president tweeted his endorsement of Arrington.

"Everybody in there is very supportive of Mark Sanford, and I think that's one of the things that overwhelmingly they believe that the president is getting bad political advice,” he said.

The former governor also came to his own defense.

“The context of that is, you know, the president is in South Carolina 100 miles from the district speaking on the gubernatorial race and for some reason decided to tee off on me again,” Sanford said while leaving the meeting. “So, this is the fourth time, so this is why Justin brought that up.”

Michigan Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashWatchdog files Hatch Act complaint against Sanders for picture with Kanye in MAGA hat Cook Political Report shifts 7 more races towards Dems Rand Paul ramps up his alliance with Trump MORE was among the GOP lawmakers who came to Sanford’s defense following Trump’s tweeted attack on June 12.

Trump had also said that he was applauded and cheered when he called Sanford a "nasty guy" at a GOP conference meeting, a claim multiple lawmakers present called flatly false.

The Freedom Caucus released a statement earlier Monday applauding Sanford’s service.  

"Mark Sanford has been a strong, independent voice fighting for the people of South Carolina's First District. We continue to support him, he is a valued member of the House Freedom Caucus, and it's our honor serving with him," the statement reads. "His thoughtful consideration of legislation and willingness to put constitutional principles ahead of the party line is commendable and will be missed."