A week after U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford lost his GOP primary race, President Donald Trump reportedly mocked the Charleston Republican in a closed-door meeting with his colleagues Tuesday evening on Capitol Hill.
According to congressional reporters outside the meeting, which was intended to focus on immigration, Trump asked the House Republicans whether Sanford was in attendance because he wanted to "congratulate him on running a great race."
Sanford lost to state Rep. Katie Arrington, R-Summerville, who highlighted Sanford's critical comments of Trump in cable news interviews.
The upset marked Sanford's first electoral defeat of his 24-year political career.
Trump reportedly went on to call Sanford "a nasty guy," at which point some Republicans started booing the president, according to reports Tuesday.
WOW! Trump: “Is Mark Sanford here? I just want to congratulate him on running a great race.” Room goes silent. Trump then called him a nasty guy and the room booed, a bit.— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) June 19, 2018
"It made me mad as hell," said U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., according to a reporter outside the room.
Sanford told The Post and Courier he took solace in the fact that his colleagues stood up for him and made their displeasure known when the president belittled him.
"I don't understand it," Sanford said. "I would say it's unfortunate. But at some level, it's symptomatic of how far the administration has gotten away from ideas and policies that are important to people's lives in South Carolina and instead focus on petty slights and grievances that ultimately work to undermine his ability to enact his own agenda."
Due to flight delays, Sanford was still stranded at the Charleston airport during the meeting — a twist of fate that he interpreted as a sign that "maybe God didn't want me in that meeting."
As a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Sanford expressed amazement that he has recently become such a persistent target of the president's ire. A few hours before polls closed in Sanford's primary race last week, Trump tweeted his support of Arrington and said Sanford had not been helpful.
"If you were to pick a group of folks who have been most aligned and most supportive of the president's agenda, it would in fact be the Freedom Caucus," Sanford said, breaking into laughter. "That's the irony here. It's just like, wait, is this a circular firing squad? You're shooting at a member of the group that has been most supportive of you."
U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican and fellow Freedom Caucus member, called Trump's remark "a classless cheap shot."
This was a classless cheap shot. https://t.co/uatCw7qwGV— Justin Amash (@justinamash) June 19, 2018
While Sanford has voiced policy differences with Trump, he said he never intended those to be taken as personal insults.
"Somehow he takes it personally and responds personally," Sanford said. "But that has not been the basis of my disagreement with the administration or this president. It's been based on policy and long-held convictions about the way money should be spent in Washington."
Trump's decision to take time out of a critical policy meeting to "shoot at a guy you've already shot and killed, is perplexing and unfortunate," Sanford said.
"As elected officials, we’re nothing more than couriers and messengers for the larger hopes and dreams of the people that we represent," Sanford added. "I think the president’s made a mistake of falling into the trap wherein he believes that it’s all about him."