McCain defends Flake after Trump attack

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSenate Dems tell Trump: Don't meet with Putin one-on-one McConnell: Senate to confirm Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 Overnight Defense: Fears rise over Trump-Putin summit | McCain presses Trump to hold Putin 'accountable' for hacking | Pentagon does damage control after NATO meet MORE (R-Ariz.) is defending fellow Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies for Putin summit: 'He’s not my enemy’ Overnight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Lawmakers demand answers from Mnuchin on tariffs | Fed chief lays out stakes of Trump trade war | Consumer prices rise at highest rate in six years | Feds to appeal AT&T merger ruling MORE, who is coming under fire from President Trump.

McCain, who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, said on Twitter Thursday that Flake "is a principled legislator & always does what's right" for Arizona.

"Our state needs his leadership now more than ever," McCain added.

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump lashed out at Flake, who is up for reelection in 2018, earlier Thursday. The president called Flake weak on immigration and crime, while also praising his primary opponent. 

"Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He's toxic!" Trump said.

The back-and-forth comes as Trump is scheduled to hold a rally in Arizona next week, providing an opportunity for him to criticize Flake and McCain in their home state if he chooses. 

Flake and Trump have traded rhetorical barbs for years, and the president has reportedly floated the prospect of spending millions to help unseat him. 

Ward is a former state senator who mounted an unsuccessful primary challenge against McCain. She's tried to align herself closely with Trump, attacking both GOP senators for being too critical of the president.  

The White House has yet to endorse a primary opponent to Flake, but Trump's tweet is a major boost to Ward, who is currently Flake's only challenger for the GOP Senate nomination. 

Other candidates could jump in, including state treasurer Jeff DeWitt and former Arizona GOP chairman Robert Graham. 

Flake quickly emerged as a prominent GOP skeptic of Trump's presidential campaign and defended McCain against Trump's criticism during the election. 

They also clashed last year during a closed-door meeting between then-candidate Trump and the Senate GOP caucus where Trump warned that Flake, who wasn't running for reelection at the time, could lose his seat.