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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 TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE to drop his ongoing attacks against Rep. Mark SanfordMark Sanford5 lawyers leave Trump impeachment team ahead of trial: reports South Carolina GOP votes to censure Rep. Rice over impeachment vote Trump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial 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 MeadowsHow scientists saved Trump's FDA from politics Liberals howl after Democrats cave on witnesses Kinzinger calls for people with info on Trump to come forward 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 AmashRepublicans eye primaries in impeachment vote Michigan GOP lawmaker says he's 'strongly considering' impeachment Newly sworn in Republican House member after Capitol riot: 'I regret not bringing my gun to D.C.' 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."