Flake stands firm on sending a ‘message to the White House’ on Mueller

Outgoing GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeArizona gov taps McSally for McCain Senate seat The Hill's Morning Report — What a shutdown would mean for the government Corker dodges on Trump primary question MORE (Ariz.) stands firm in blocking President TrumpDonald John TrumpREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Klobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Israel boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate MORE's judicial nominations until Senate leaders allow a vote on a bill to protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation into Russian election hacking.

"The message that needs to be sent to the White House is that we do not have the president's back if he fires the special counsel,” Flake told reporters Thursday.

“There are a number of judges that we should be approving. There are number of them that are not controversial, that are being held up unfortunately - but this has to be priority,” the Judiciary Committee member said.

The retiring Arizona senator couldn’t say if GOP leadership would allow for a vote on the measure but for his part, Flake is "still encouraging the Majority Leader to bring this to a vote. We need to protect the special counsel."

Without Flake’s vote to move judicial nominations to the Senate floor, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate votes to end debate on criminal justice reform bill Five takeaways from the court decision striking down ObamaCare The Year Ahead: Tough tests loom for Trump trade agenda MORE (R-Iowa) was forced to cancel a meeting set for Thursday morning in which nearly a dozen Trump nominees were set to be sent to the full Senate.

Flake, who has refused to approve the president’s judicial picks until the chamber debates and votes on a bipartisan measure to protect Mueller’s investigation, said “you have to take a stand.”

He explained “the urgency” of a vote on his bill “changed” when Trump fired Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPresidential historian: Trump's actions may be 'definition of treason' if he knew about Russian interference efforts Trump admin seeks to roll back Obama-era policy on school discipline: report Trump: Sessions 'should be ashamed of himself' for allowing Russia probe to proceed MORE and appointed Sessions’ former Chief of Staff Matt WhitakerMatthew G WhitakerFox's Kilmeade suggests David Bossie, Matthew Whitaker for chief of staff Comey’s confession: dossier not verified before, or after, FISA warrant Flake stands firm on sending a ‘message to the White House’ on Mueller MORE to the position of acting attorney general.

Before returning to the Justice Department in the fall of 2017, Whitaker criticized the Mueller investigation and suggested methods by which to end it.

Flake said for somebody to have "oversight over the Mueller investigation that had already expressed hostility toward the Mueller investigation - I don't know how anybody can be okay with that.”

“To move on as if, you know, 'nothing’s changed,' and 'nobody's being fired,’ you know 'nothing to see here' – that's just not the case,” Flake added.

— Molly K. Hooper