Donald Trump on Sunday laid blame squarely at the feet of his Republican party's ultra-conservative wing for the most stinging defeat of his young presidency, holding it responsible for the failed attempt to repeal Obamacare and for weakening a broader effort to curb abortions.
"Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!" he tweeted early Sunday, two days after he and Republican leaders canceled a House vote on repealing Obamacare that was headed for failure.
After a day of stock-taking and behind-the-scenes consultations over the lessons of the embarrassing setback, Trump appeared to be returning Sunday to his customary bravado.
His frontal attack on the hardline Freedom Caucus, and on two other powerful conservative forces in Washington, cast a bright light on the intraparty tensions that seem sure to flare up as Trump now turns to key priorities like tax reform and the promise of major infrastructure spending.
The Club for Growth, with its tight focus on anti-tax policies, has long been influential in conservative Washington circles and reportedly financed a half-billion dollar ad campaign urging Republican lawmakers to oppose their party's health bill.
It was an early critic of the Trump candidacy, branding him a "big-government liberal" and calling him "the worst kind of politician, who'll say anything to get elected."
The Heritage Foundation is a leading conservative think tank. When Trump was drawing up his list of potential Supreme Court nominees last year, he said he was relying on guidance from Heritage and from the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal group.
By invoking Planned Parenthood in his attack on the conservative groups-- the country's largest provider of abortion services -- Trump appeared to be trying to again mobilize his vocal grassroots base for the battles ahead.
On Friday, ahead of the scheduled vote, Trump had tweeted a warning to his party's right wing, saying:
"The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!"
The Republican bill would have barred the women's health organization from receiving federal funds in the form of reimbursements for the free contraception it provides for low-income patients.