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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Inside the Oval Office last week, there was a telling exchange between conservative activist Jenny Beth Martin and the president.

During Trump's Wednesday meeting with conservative leaders over the healthcare plan, Tea Party Patriots leader Martin subtly reminded Trump that her super-PAC stood by him "through thick and thin" during the campaign, unlike a certain politician from Wisconsin.

According to two sources in the room, Martin didn't mention Paul Ryan's name. But everyone knew who she was talking about. She reminded Trump that in October — when the crude "Access Hollywood" tape leaked and Ryan disinvited Trump from a Wisconsin event — Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund volunteers were working the phones on Trump's behalf.

Trump smiled and glanced over at his chief of staff Reince Priebus. Trump said that, yes, he had been disinvited. And he thanked Martin for standing by him. (Of course, Martin wasn't always a Trump loyalist. She gave a blisteringly anti-Trump speech at CPAC in 2016, but has since changed her tune.)

  • Why this matters: Some conservatives who oppose the House GOP Obamacare replacement plan believe it's strategically smart to divide the president from the speaker. They think the president is more open than Ryan to negotiating, and they believe that branding the bill as "Paul Ryan's plan" and emphasizing Ryan's disloyalty during the campaign could make Trump less attached to the specifics of the current bill.
  • However: So far, the White House and Ryan are publicly sticking close together even on the controversial stuff. The controversial Medicaid timeline that's in the bill "is what the president supports," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday, adding: "it's not a question of negotiation."

Go deeper

Toyota to build $1.3 billion U.S. battery plant in North Carolina

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X, the company's first battery-electric vehicle, at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 17. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Toyota announced Monday it's investing $1.3 billion to construct an electric vehicle battery "megasite" near Greensboro, North Carolina, set to open in 2025.

Why it matters: Toyota's Prius hybrid won environmental plaudits when it launched in 1997, but it has since lost ground to electric vehicle world leader Tesla, per Axios' Joann Muller. This battery plant will be the first to produce automotive batteries for Toyota in North America.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Scoop: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke last week with relatives of U.S. hostages and others wrongfully detained abroad, after more than two dozen families expressed frustrations about their inability to get a meeting with him or President Biden, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Participants on the video call, which began at 7pm ET Friday and lasted more than an hour, told Axios they didn't get satisfactory answers to many of their questions. Nonetheless, they were encouraged by Sullivan's commitment to follow up and pledge to be personally available to them and others going forward.