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

Outgoing GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAnti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid Arpaio considering running for former sheriff job after Trump pardon Overnight Energy: Warren edges past Sanders in poll of climate-focused voters | Carbon tax shows new signs of life | Greens fuming at Trump plans for development at Bears Ears monument MORE (Ariz.) stands firm in blocking President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE's judicial nominations until Senate leaders allow a vote on a bill to protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony 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 GrassleyThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces White House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord 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 SessionsA better way to run the Federal Bureau of Prisons Trump admin erases key environmental enforcement tool DOJ should take action against China's Twitter propaganda MORE and appointed Sessions’ former Chief of Staff Matt WhitakerMatthew G WhitakerEx-federal prosecutor: 'Thank God' Whitaker is gone, Barr will bring 'integrity' back to DOJ GOP pollster says Dems are relitigating 2016 election with investigations of Trump Former senior FBI official calls Whitaker hearing ‘disgraceful’ 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