Describing the GOP as “Trump’s party,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told NBC’s Chuck Todd Sunday on “Meet the Press” Republicans would be best served if they could locate a candidate willing to challenge Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential primary.
Addressing a potential breakthrough related to the nuclear impasse on the Korean peninsula, Flake urged caution in any talks with the North Korean dictator and expressed his reservations over President Trump’s new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
After voicing support for the introduction of a bill to the Senate to halt the president’s tariffs, Todd shifted to Flake’s impending retirement. When asked by Todd why he is retiring, Flake responded:
“I- I just can’t. As a Republican who believes in free trade, limited government, economic freedom, I couldn’t be reelected in my party right now. Somebody who voices, you know, reservations about where the president is or criticizes his behavior like last night, it’s tough to be reelected in a Republican primary.”
Asked by Todd if Trump requires a challenge from someone who espouses his views, Flake replied:
“Yes, I do. I do. I mean, it would be a tough go in a Republican primary. The Republican Party is the Trump party right now. But that’s not to say it will stay that way.”
Flake did not volunteer a particular candidate who could confront Trump.
One of the GOP’s loudest and most consistent critics of Trump’s leadership style, Flake delivered a stinging rebuke to Trump from the Senate floor in January, comparing the president’s attacks on the media to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
Weeks later, following Trump’s calling Democrats who refused to applaud the president’s State of the Union speech as “treasonous,” Flake returned to the Senate and described Trump’s remarks as “vile.”
First elected in 2012 to replace the retiring Jon Kyl, Flake was once regarded as a rising star in the Republican Party. Following the October 2016 revelation of the Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump is captured uttering vulgar remarks about his behavior with women, Flake called on the then-GOP presidential nominee to withdraw from the race.
After his election in 2016, the feud between the men intensified, leading Flake to author a book, Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle, which included further attacks on Trump.
The book was released in August 2017.
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