A top aide to Donald Trump has called for a primary challenge to a Republican member of Congress.
In a tweet on Saturday, Dan Scavino, the White House director of social media, called on voters to defeat congressman Justin Amash of Michigan.
Scavino wrote: “@realDonaldTrump is bringing auto plants & jobs back to Michigan. @justinamash is a big liability. #TrumpTrain, defeat him in primary.”
The libertarian-leaning Amash, who was first elected to the House in 2010, is a member of the hardline Freedom Caucus and has long been critical of Trump.
The direct intervention by Scavino, who has worked for Trump since caddying for the then-real estate developer as a teenager, is however a new sign of division between Trump and congressional Republicans.
The president this week used Twitter to criticize members of the Freedom Caucus for their role in blocking the American Health Care Act, the House bill that aimed to replace Barack Obama’s healthcare reform, the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.
The AHCA was pulled from the House floor shortly before a scheduled vote, due to insufficient support from all corners of the Republican party.
Many members of the Freedom Caucus thought the bill, which was widely criticised for its likely removal of insurance from millions of Americans, in fact left government with too prominent a role in the provision of healthcare.
In a reference to rightwing descriptions of supposedly self-serving Washington DC, Amash derided the AHCA as “Swampcare”.
In tweets on Thursday, Trump criticized three members of the Freedom Caucus: chair Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Raúl Labrador of Idaho.
Meadows and Labrador stumped for Trump in 2016, and Labrador was considered for a cabinet post.
In a tweet of his own on Thursday, the Idaho Republican wrote: “Freedom Caucus stood with u when others ran. Remember who your real friends are. We’re trying to help u succeed.”
Trump has yet to criticize Amash by name. The maverick Michigan Republican is however used to primary challenges. In 2014, he fended off a self-funding establishment Republican who was endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce.
However, a competitive primary in Amash’s district, which includes the city of Grand Rapids, could have political consequences. Obama won the district in 2008 and Trump ran 8% behind Amash there in 2016.
Spokesmen for the White House did not immediately reply to requests for comment on Scavino’s tweet.