Sen. Jeff Flake announced his retirement on Tuesday — telling his colleagues that he can’t in good conscious continue to serve in the political climate created by President Trump.
The Arizona lawmaker has frequently been at odds with the President, butting heads over issues most Republicans agree on.
“If I have been critical, it’s not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States,” Flake said. “If I have been critical it’s because I believe it is my obligation to do so.”
Flake delivered an impassioned and emotional speech announcing his retirement from the floor of the Senate.
The move came after Trump spent the morning jousting, mostly through Twitter, with another GOPer: Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).
Corker blasted Trump on Tuesday in a series of interviews leading up to the President’s first trip to Capitol Hill to talk tax reform — continuing a war of words the two have engaged in for weeks.
Corker did not mince words as he shared his thoughts about Trump’s trouble with the truth, his propensity for picking on others and his inability to act as a moral leader.
“He’s obviously not going to rise to the occasion as President,” Corker told CNN. “I think at the end of the day, when his term is over. I think the debasing of our nation, the constant not truth telling, just the name calling, the things… I think the debasement of our nation will be what he’ll be remembered most for and that’s regretful.”
Corker has decided not to seek reelection in 2018 as well.
Flake in his remarks took umbrage with the President’s populism and the silence of fellow Republicans in the face of Trump’s actions.
“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,” Flake said.
President Trump and Flake have openly feuded for months.
Flake, 54, penned a book this summer titled, “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.”
The tome tore into the lawmaker’s fellow GOPers for abandoning the core values of the Republican party in favor of Trump’s populist rhetoric and fear-mongering.
Trump called Flake “WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate,” in a tweet.
“He’s toxic!” the President added.
Flake’s speech follows a week in which former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both delivered remarks critical of the Trump administration, without mentioning the current President by name.
The White House brushed off questions about the President’s reaction to Flake’s decision.
“I think that based on previous statements and certainly based on the lack of support that he has from the people of Arizona, it’s probably a good move,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.