The Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — A pair of senators from U.S. President Donald Trump’s own Republican Party blistered him with criticism Tuesday in a dramatic day of denunciation that laid bare a GOP at war with itself.
Jeff Flake of Arizona declared he would not be “complicit” with Trump and announced his surprise retirement, while Bob Corker of Tennessee declared the president “debases our nation” with constant untruths and name-calling.
Corker, too, is retiring at the end of his term, and the White House shed no tears at the prospect of the two GOP senators’ departures. A former adviser to Steve Bannon, Trump’s former strategic adviser, called it all “a monumental victory for the Trump movement,” and Trump himself boasted to staff members that he’d played a role in forcing the senators out.
It was a stunning rebuke of a sitting president from prominent members of his own party — and added to a chorus of criticism of Trump that has been growing louder and more public. Flake challenged his fellow senators to follow his lead, but there were few immediate signs they would.
At midafternoon, as fellow lawmakers sat in attentive silence, Flake stood at his Senate desk and delivered an emotional speech in which he dissected what he considered his party’s accommodations with Trump and said he could no longer play a role in them.
“We were not made great as a country by indulging in or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorifying in the things that divide us and calling fake things true and true things fake,” he said.
Hours earlier, Corker leveled his own searing criticism of Trump in a series of interviews.
“I think the debasement of our nation will be what he’ll be remembered most for and that’s regretful,” Corker said.
A furious Trump didn’t let that pass unremarked. On Twitter, he called Corker “incompetent,” said he “doesn’t have a clue” and claimed the two-term lawmaker “couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee.”