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Trump lashes out at conservatives for health-care bill's failure as GOP infighting grows

House Speaker Paul Ryan at a news conference following a Republican caucus meeting in the Capitol, March 24, 2017
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House Speaker Paul Ryan at a news conference following a Republican caucus meeting in the Capitol, March 24, 2017

President Donald Trump lashed out at his party's conservative wing on Sunday after the stinging defeat of a Republican health care plan he backed, arguing that Democrats were "smiling" at the result even as he hinted at co-opting the party's moderates.

Trump issued a tweet saying that Democrats were rejoicing over the GOP's failure to replace Obamacare. Although the bill was largely authored by House Speaker Paul Ryan, representatives from the right wing of the GOP including the House Freedom Caucus vigorously opposed the bill. On Sunday, Trump hit out at members of his party.

Ryan is now under heavy political pressure for not being able to marshal votes in favor of the plan.

On Saturday evening, Trump exhorted his Twitter followers to watch the latest installment of Jeanine Pirro, the conservative Fox News commentator.

The former Westchester County district attorney then opened her show launching into a tirade that called for Ryan's immediate resignation, a move some observers suggested may have been flagged in advance to the president.

Although Trump publicly laid the blame on Democrats — who control neither branch of Congress — White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said on Sunday that the president would court moderate Democrats for his border tax and tax cut proposals.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Priebus scolded hardline conservative Republicans for refusing to get behind the healthcare bill pushed by Trump and House leaders. He suggested the administration may decide to bypass the right wing of the GOP in future legislative fights.

"I think the president is disappointed in the number of people he thought were loyal to him that weren't," Priebus said on the program.

However, it's unclear whether any overtures by Trump to Democrats would be successful. Most of the party's grandees have expressed implacable opposition to his presidency after a bruising general election. Most Democrats remain angered by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's loss, and continue to suggest Russian interference played a significant role in her electoral downfall.

—Reuters contributed to this article.