By Kallie Gregg
Jeff Flake, a Republican senator from Arizona, announced on Tuesday that he will not be seeking reelection for a second term.
In the months since President Donald J. Trump’s election, Flake has been one of the administration’s fiercest critics within the GOP.
Yesterday, in an interview with “The Arizona Reporter,” Flake said that, “there may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party.”
Acknowledging that his position made it unlikely he would survive a 2018 primary challenge, Flake took to the senate floor on Tuesday evening.
Senator Flake formally declared his retirement and indicted the president in a fiery speech, which earned a standing ovation from some of his colleagues.
Although he declined to directly mention President Donald Trump or members of the current administration by name, the intended recipients of Flake’s remarks were clear.
“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,” Flake said. “And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength—because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness.”
Flake joins Senators Bob Corker and John McCain as three of President Trump’s most vocal oppositions from his own party.
However, the three are also all unlikely to be in office come 2018. Corker has likewise announced his own retirement, whereas McCain is battling brain cancer.
For Flake, the cost of his seat at the retention of his principles appears to be a fair trade.
“We’re not here to simply mark time,” Flake said. “Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office, and there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. Now is such a time.”
“It is often said that children are watching,” he continued. “Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, ‘Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?’ What are we going to say?”
At the conclusion of the session, Corker told the media that he considers Flake, “one of the greatest people I’ve served with. […] He’s what I would call a real conservative.”
However, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders downplayed the reach of Flake and Corker’s criticisms in a statement to the media soon after the senator’s speech.
History, she said, would remember President Trump for his actions, “not some petty comments from Senator Corker and Senator Flake.”