Flake lashes out at Trump: We're at the beginning 'of a full-scale trade war'

Flake lashes out at Trump: We're at the beginning 'of a full-scale trade war'
© Greg Nash

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP senator: Senate should be 'disgusted' by Helsinki summit Flake to introduce resolution countering Trump's Russia summit rhetoric Senate GOP poised to break record on Trump's court picks MORE (R-Ariz.) on Thursday blasted President TrumpDonald John TrumpShocking summit with Putin caps off Trump’s turbulent Europe trip GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit MORE's trade policy, warning his colleagues that the administration is in the early stages of a trade war.

“I rise today to sound the alarm about the president's decision to impose steep tariffs on our trading partners,” Flake said from the Senate floor. “We are in the nascent stages of a full-scale trade war.” 

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 Flake's floor speech comes as Republicans are locked in a battle with the White House over Trump's decision to slap steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico. 

Roughly a dozen senators, led by Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Flake to introduce resolution countering Trump's Russia summit rhetoric Corker: Trump made US look 'like a pushover' MORE (R-Tenn.), introduced legislation to require congressional approval on tariffs implemented for national security reasons, but the White House opposes the legislation and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Overnight Defense: Washington reeling from Trump, Putin press conference Feehery: The long game MORE (R-Ky.) has called the bill “an exercise in futility.” 

Flake, on Thursday, urged his colleagues to buck the White House, saying Congress needs to “show leadership.” 

“We are elected to be leaders, not followers here,” he said. “It is not our charge to just go along just because the president shares our party affiliation.” 

Flake, who is retiring after this Congress, has been a frequent critic of Trump.

The president, in a tweet earlier Thursday, lashed out at Flake, saying he was “humiliatingly forced out of his own Senate seat.” 

“How could Jeff Flake, who is setting record low polling numbers in Arizona and was therefore humiliatingly forced out of his own Senate seat without even a fight (and who doesn’t have a clue), think about running for office, even a lower one, again? Let’s face it, he’s a Flake!” Trump tweeted

But trade has been one of the key points of contention between congressional Republicans and Trump, who have fundamentally different views on the issue.

Flake warned that the White House is trying to turn back to “isolationist instincts” with its trade policy and warned of a world turning to “tribalism.” 

“We see a world descending into an atavistic tribalism, a political primitivism where dealings between nations are driven by fear and antagonism, bullying and threats, taunts and brinkmanship, rather than mutual benefit and comity,” Flake said.

“Instead we find ourselves led by those who express admiration for authoritarianism — in Russia, in China, in the Philippines, and other places who make common cause with bullies, who flirt with tyrants,” Flake continued. 

Allies are warning they will retaliate against Trump's tariffs decisions. The European Union said on Wednesday that it will begin imposing tariffs, and Mexico published a list earlier this week of what items it will place import tariffs.

Flake added on Thursday that the international community “will not wait for us to come to our senses.” 

Alliances “are shattered in an ill-tempered second, an ill-considered tantrum, a childish taunt here, a bellicose insult there,” Flake said. “Incoherent policy utterances, often as not by tweet, contradicted in the space of single news cycle. Muddled and mercurial, this is not grown-up leadership.”