At a Senate Republican meeting at the White House on Tuesday, President Trump got an earful about a brutal ad campaign an allied super PAC, America First Policies, has been running against Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who is up for re-election next year in a state carried by Hillary Clinton, The New York Times reports, citing a senator and another person present at the meeting. Heller was one of the first Republicans to say he couldn't support the Senate GOP health-care bill as written. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had already complained about the ads, reportedly telling White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus they were "beyond stupid."
"The move against Mr. Heller had the blessing of the White House, according to an official with America First, because Mr. Trump's allies were furious that the senator would side with Nevada's governor, Brian Sandoval, a Republican who accepted the Medicaid expansion under the health law and opposes the Republican overhaul, in criticizing the bill," the Times reports. "According to the senator, the president laughed good-naturedly at the complaint and signaled that he had received the message." After the meeting, America First said it was pulling its promised seven-figure attack campaign against Heller, congratulating Heller for coming "back to the table."
On Tuesday evening, Heller held an event with constituents over the telephone. Jon Ralston, editor of The Nevada Independent, live-tweeted it. Heller praised Sandoval's decision to accept ObamaCare's expansion of Medicaid in the state, argued that former President Ronald Reagan wouldn't have supported the Senate GOP health-care bill, said McConnell couldn't count on his vote for the bill after the July 4 break, then dropped this reference to The Godfather, according to Ralston: "It's going to be very difficult to get me to a yes ... have to make us an offer we can't refuse, me and the governor."
If Trump comes after Heller again, maybe he can drop the talk of severed horse heads and draw inspiration from Michael Corleone's conversation with a fictional Nevada senator, Pat Geary, in The Godfather Part II, though presumably with a less bloody enforcement mechanism.
In Trump's Washington, that seems only slightly far-fetched.