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 TrumpTrump opens new line of impeachment attack for Democrats Bloomberg to spend 0M on anti-Trump ads in battleground states New witness claims first-hand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes MORE on Wednesday boasted that he "retired" Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing 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 McSallyThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths 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 CurbeloRepublicans can't exploit the left's climate extremism without a better idea Progressive Latino group launches first incumbent protection campaign The Memo: Bad polls for Trump shake GOP MORE (Fla.) and Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanBottom Line Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform 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) LoveFormer GOP lawmaker: Trump's tweets have to stop Congressional Women's Softball team releases roster The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority MORE (Utah), Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockGun debate raises stakes in battle for Virginia legislature Progressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers MORE (Va.), Peter Roskam Peter James RoskamFeehery: How Republicans can win back the suburbs Ex-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Blue states angry over SALT cap should give fiscal sobriety a try MORE (Ill.), Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenTwo swing-district Democrats raise impeachment calls after whistleblower reports Hopes dim for passage of Trump trade deal Fight over Trump's new NAFTA hits key stretch MORE (Minn.) and John FasoJohn James FasoThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority GOP House super PAC targets two freshman Dems with new ads Tax law failed to save GOP majority MORE (N.Y.), as well as Bob Hugin, a Republican Senate candidate who challenged Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezGraham blocks resolution recognizing Armenian genocide after Erdoğan meeting Trump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden Fairness, tradition, and the Constitution demand the 'whistleblower' step forward 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.