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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

President Trump is meeting with conservative group leaders this afternoon, and Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney has invited Freedom Caucus members to go bowling next week. But the message from the conservatives is clear: It's going to take more than schmoozing to change their minds on the Obamacare replacement plan the House Republican leadership wants. They want big, substantive changes — enough to make it a fundamentally different bill.

What Trump is doing: He's bringing in leaders of some of the most powerful outside groups that have been agitating against the bill, including Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, Heritage Action, and Club for Growth. In the meantime, Mulvaney has been getting more involved, showing up at last night's Freedom Caucus meeting and making clear that the bill is open to substantial changes, according to a Freedom Caucus aide.

What the Freedom Caucus wants: The problem is that the group wants more than just tweaks around the edges of the current bill. The conservatives want to get rid of the refundable tax credit, which they believe will be used by millions more people than the Obamacare tax credits. They also want to end the Medicaid expansion, not let the states that already expanded Medicaid keep getting extra money. And they want more in the bill that would explicitly reduce health care costs. "It's not going to look anything like what the leadership wants," said the Freedom Caucus aide.

This can't be fixed with schmoozing: Sources familiar with the interactions say that Paul Teller — the man picked to reach out to House conservatives — is trusted by the Freedom Caucus in a way that they don't trust other members of the administration. Teller understands the caucus' dynamics and he's doing a combination of gentle pushing and listening, carrying back changes to the administration. But a Freedom Caucus source said that there's nothing Teller can say or do. The changes need to be major.

Yes, but: An administration official said that while the conservatives have to be able to tell their constituents that they got some changes, "I'm not so sure the changes will be so major."

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Inhofe loudly sets Trump straight on defense bill

Sen. Jim Inhofe speaks with reporters in the Capitol last month. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senator Jim Inhofe told President Trump today he'll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: "This is the only chance to get our bill passed," a source who overheard part of their conversation tells Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump's threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.

Conspiracy theories blow back on Trump's White House

Sidney Powell. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

President Trump has rarely met a conspiracy theory he doesn't like, but he and other Republicans now worry the wild tales told by lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood may cost them in Georgia's Senate special elections.

Why it matters: The two are telling Georgians not to vote for Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler because of a bizarre, baseless and potentially self-defeating theory: It's not worth voting because the Chinese Communist Party has rigged the voting machines.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bolton lauds Barr for standing up to Trump

John Bolton. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

John Bolton says Attorney General Bill Barr has done more to undercut President Trump's baseless assertions about Democrats stealing the election than most Senate Republicans by saying publicly that the Justice Department has yet to see widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

What he's saying: “He stood up and did the right thing," Bolton said in a Wednesday phone interview.