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 TrumpPaul Ryan defends Navy admiral after Trump's criticism Trump discussing visit overseas to troops following criticism: report Retired Army General: Trump is ‘acting like an 8th grader’ in attacking ex-Navy SEAL who led bin Laden operation MORE on Wednesday boasted that he "retired" Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSenate barrels toward showdown over Trump's court picks Trump’s relationship with Saudi crown prince under pressure Graham urges McConnell to allow vote on bill to protect Mueller 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 McSallyElection Countdown: Florida fight ends with Scott, DeSantis wins | Dems see Sunbelt in play for 2020 | Trump to campaign in Mississippi ahead of runoff | GOP wipeout in Orange County | Ortiz Jones concedes in Texas House race Dem gains put Sunbelt in play for 2020 Reelection campaign starts now, like it or not 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 CurbeloFlorida New Members 2019 3 ways House Dems can fight climate change when sweeping policy is off the table Defeated Republicans mocked by Trump fire back at president MORE (Fla.) and Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanColorado New Members 2019 Defeated Republicans mocked by Trump fire back at president Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — First lady's office pushes for ouster of national security aide | Trump taps retired general as ambassador to Saudis | Mattis to visit border troops | Record number of female veterans to serve in Congress 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) LoveElection Countdown: Florida fight ends with Scott, DeSantis wins | Dems see Sunbelt in play for 2020 | Trump to campaign in Mississippi ahead of runoff | GOP wipeout in Orange County | Ortiz Jones concedes in Texas House race 16 Dems sign letter opposing Pelosi as Speaker Mia Love pulls ahead in Utah race as judge dismisses her lawsuit MORE (Utah), Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockVirginia New Members 2019 Defeated Republicans mocked by Trump fire back at president GOP lawmaker defends Mia Love from Trump attacks: 'I was disgusted when I heard it' 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 PaulsenMinnesota New Members 2019 Defeated Republicans mocked by Trump fire back at president On The Money: Trump says he won't give up tax returns | Likely Dem chair vows to subpoena | Stocks rally on Dem House takeover | Tough midterm for many GOP tax writers 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) MenendezPro-Israel organizations should finally seek payback against Iran deal Dems Trump lowers refugee goal to 30,000, he must meet it Blame Senate, not FBI, for Kavanaugh travesty 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.