Trump boasts about having 'retired' Flake: 'I did the country a great service'

Trump boasts about having 'retired' Flake: 'I did the country a great service'
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpVeterans groups demand end to shutdown: 'Get your act together' Brown launches tour in four early nominating states amid 2020 consideration Pence on border wall: Trump won't be ‘deterred’ by Dem ‘obstruction’ MORE on Wednesday boasted that he "retired" Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days Poll: Sanders most popular senator, Flake least CBS News in talks to hire Flake: report MORE (Ariz.), a top GOP critic of the president who is leaving the Senate after this year.

“In Jeff Flake’s case it’s me, pure and simple. I retired him. I’m very proud of it, I did the country a great service," Trump said during a sprawling press conference at the White House a day after the midterm elections.

"He is retired. I’d like to call it another word, but we’re going to treat him with great respect,” Trump added.

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Flake, who announced in October 2017 that he would retire after this year, has acknowledged that his vocal criticism of the president’s rhetoric would likely make winning a GOP primary to seek reelection untenable.

“The bottom line is if I were to run a campaign that I could be proud of and where I didn’t have to cozy up to the president and his positions or his behavior, I could not win in a Republican primary, that’s the bottom line," Flake said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” after announcing his retirement. 

"It’s not that you have to just be with the president on policy, you can’t question his behavior and still be a Republican in good standing apparently in a Republican primary."

Flake has remained a vocal critic of the president, arguing in an op-ed published in The Washington Post on Wednesday, "There is only one real way forward, of course. But it has to start with Republicans believing in something greater than President Trump again."

Trump and Flake’s comments come a day after Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate, largely due to Trump-aligned Republican candidates who fought Democrats in red or purple states.

Meanwhile, the race to replace Flake in Arizona remained too close to call on Wednesday, with Arizona Reps. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyOvernight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions 116th Congress breaks records for women, minority lawmakers MORE (R) and Kyrsten Sinema (D) separated by 1 percentage point with nearly all precincts reporting.

Trump at the press conference Wednesday also ripped defeated Republican House members who he said had not sufficiently embraced him.

“You had some that decided to, let’s stay away, let’s stay away. They did very poorly,” Trump said at a press conference at the White House. “I’m not sure that I should be happy or sad, but I feel just fine about it.” 

Trump specifically mentioned GOP Reps. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloEx-GOP Rep. Ryan Costello joins group pushing carbon tax Hispanic Caucus boasts record membership in new Congress Chuck Todd says his show is 'not going to give time to climate deniers' MORE (Fla.) and Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanGardner gets first Dem challenger for 2020 Senate race The 5 most competitive Senate races of 2020 10 things we learned from the midterms MORE (Colo.), both of whom lost in contested congressional races on Tuesday evening. 

Trump also called out by name defeated GOP Reps. Mia LoveLudmya (Mia) LoveWomen’s equality not just ‘firsts’ CBS News in talks to hire Flake: report Former reps Mia Love, Luis Gutiérrez join CNN as commentators MORE (Utah), Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockDems win Virginia state Senate special election Dem rep asks for asks for pay to be withheld during shutdown New Dem lawmaker hangs trans flag outside office on Capitol Hill MORE (Va.), Peter Roskam Peter James RoskamIllinois New Members 2019 Defeated Republicans mocked by Trump fire back at president House GOP returns to Washington after sobering midterm losses MORE (Ill.), Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenThe 8 House Republicans who voted against Trump’s border wall Minnesota New Members 2019 Defeated Republicans mocked by Trump fire back at president MORE (Minn.) and John FasoJohn James FasoTax law failed to save GOP majority New York New Members 2019 McCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote MORE (N.Y.), as well as Bob Hugin, a Republican Senate candidate who challenged Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMore oversight of America’s international media networks a good idea Pro-Israel organizations should finally seek payback against Iran deal Dems Trump lowers refugee goal to 30,000, he must meet it MORE (D) in New Jersey but lost.

Democrats regained control of the House on Tuesday, mostly by running up the score in suburban districts where voters have become disillusioned with the president’s tone.