Flake rebuts Trump: Anonymous op-ed author did not commit 'treason'

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP confidence grows on Kavanaugh Senate panel schedules Friday morning vote for Kavanaugh Senate eyes Kavanaugh floor vote next week MORE (R-Ariz.) on Thursday pushed back on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: Dems playing destructive 'con game' with Kavanaugh Several Yale Law classmates who backed Kavanaugh call for misconduct investigation Freedom Caucus calls on Rosenstein to testify or resign MORE's claim that the author of an anonymous op-ed blasting the president had committed treason.

"I don't think that this person has committed treason as the president has said, and no, The New York Times should not turn him or her over,” Flake told Hill.TV in an interview.

Flake, a vocal critic of Trump who is retiring after this Congress, weighed in amid a furious response from the White House to identify the op-ed author, whom the Times identified on Wednesday only as a "senior official" in the administration.

Trump has repeatedly condemned the author of the piece over the past two days. The official described themselves as part of a "resistance" inside the administration, blasting the president's "amorality" and his views on trade and democratic principles.

The official wrote that "many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office."

A slew of senior administration officials have denounced the op-ed while denying being the author, including Vice President Pence, Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump returns to UN praising Kim | Iran in crosshairs later this week | US warns Russia on missile defense in Syria Haspel delivers first public remarks as Trump’s CIA chief Dem lawmakers slam Trump’s declassification of Russia documents as ‘brazen abuse of power’ MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoRod Rosenstein must resign now Civilian deaths in Yemen up by 164 percent: report Trump team must do more to end the ongoing crisis in Yemen MORE, among others.

“I think the idea that somebody would do it anonymously is hard to get over,” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate eyes Kavanaugh floor vote next week Google says it continues to allow apps to access Gmail user data Fight looms over national privacy law MORE (S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, said in an interview with Hill.TV.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBredesen says he won't back Schumer for Senate Dem leader Webb: The new mob: Anti-American Dems Ignored Latino vote will be key in future elections MORE (R-Texas) scolded the Times for publishing a piece based on a senior official: "This is Washington, D.C., there are thousands of people that call themselves senior officials; so it doesn't mean anything without any context.”

Cruz said it’s not surprising that “there are people in the administration working against the president," adding, "That's been a dynamic we've seen in previous Republican administrations, but no one has seen it as intensely as has President Trump and I think it's unfortunate."

Several longtime Democratic senators were quick to seize on the op-ed, which came a day after the first excerpts emerged of veteran journalist Bob Woodward's new book that paints an image of a chaotic White House with senior officials quietly working being the scenes to blunt various decisions made by Trump.

“It is troubling and it’s scary to think that there are people around this president who are so worried about his judgement and his instability that they are literally pulling papers off his desk and trying to find ways to keep important decisions away from him,” Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinKavanaugh’s fate rests with Sen. Collins Amnesty International calls to halt Kavanaugh nomination Fox's Chris Wallace: All 10 Democratic Senate Judiciary members again declined interview invitations MORE (D-Ill.) told Hill.TV on Thursday.

“I can’t recall another moment in history quite like that,” Durbin said.

"I must admit, I don't always get to read everything in the newspaper — I read that one," Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) said of the op-ed.

Cruz suggested that Trump try to ignore the op-ed moving forward and focus instead on the policy accomplishments of his first few years in office.

“My approach is to ignore this whole circus, ignore all the attacks, focus on substance, we are gaining incredible results for the American people,” Cruz said.

— Molly Hooper