Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake issued a blistering critique of President Donald Trump in a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, announcing that he will not seek re-election in 2018. That speech followed weeks of scathing public criticism from another outgoing Republican Senator, Tennessee’s Bob Corker. Arizona Sen. John McCain has also regularly spoken out against Trump.
The three lawmakers have become unusually outspoken critics of the president who shares their political party, drawing ire from Trump in return.
Trump targeted Corker and Flake in several tweets early Wednesday morning. “The reason Flake and Corker dropped out of the Senate race is very simple, they had zero chance of being elected. Now act so hurt & wounded!” he said, adding: “The meeting with Republican Senators yesterday, outside of Flake and Corker, was a love fest with standing ovations and great ideas for USA!”
Here’s what these Republican lawmakers have said in their recent critiques of Trump:
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake
“We must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal,” Flake said in his speech on Tuesday. “Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is,’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified. And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy.”
Flake announced that he would not seek re-election in 2018 and condemned the direction of the Republican Party, warning that the GOP could become “a fearful, backward-looking minority party.”
“I am aware that a segment of my party believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect,” Flake said. “If I have been critical, it is not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States. If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience.”
He went on: “The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters—the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.”
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker
Corker praised Flake on Tuesday, calling him “a true conservative, an outstanding senator, and a cherished friend.”
In an interview on Tuesday, Corker said Trump is not a role model for children and predicted the President will be most remembered for the “debasement of our nation.”
“When his term is over, I think the debasing of our nation, the constant non truth-telling, just the name calling, I think the debasement of our nation will be what he’ll be remembered most for, and that’s regretful,” Corker said. “And it affects young people. I mean, we have young people who for the first time are watching a President stating absolute non-truths non-stop. Personalizing things in the way that he does. And it’s very sad for our nation.”
Arizona Sen. John McCain
McCain defended Flake’s speech on Tuesday. “I have seen Jeff Flake stand up for what he believes in, knowing full well there would be a political price to pay,” he said, calling Flake “a man of integrity, and honor, and decency.”
In a speech last week McCain condemned nationalism and the kind of isolationist policies on which Trump ran his presidential campaign.
“To abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems,” McCain said, “is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”