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'
© Getty Images

President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE on Wednesday boasted that he "retired" Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake urges Republicans to condemn 'vile and offensive' Trump tweets Flake responds to Trump, Jimmy Carter barbs: 'We need to stop trying to disqualify each other' Jeff Flake responds to Trump's 'greener pastures' dig on former GOP lawmakers 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 McSallyTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses 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 CurbeloDemocratic lawmaker pushes back on Castro's call to repeal law making illegal border crossings a crime The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz MORE (Fla.) and Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanKoch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Denver Post editorial board says Gardner endorsement was 'mistake' 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 ComstockProgressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers GOP lawmaker introduces bill to stop revolving door MORE (Va.), Peter Roskam Peter James RoskamEx-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Blue states angry over SALT cap should give fiscal sobriety a try Illinois Dems offer bill to raise SALT deduction cap MORE (Ill.), Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenHopes dim for passage of Trump trade deal Fight over Trump's new NAFTA hits key stretch Blue states angry over SALT cap should give fiscal sobriety a try 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) MenendezDemocrats pledge to fight Trump detention policy during trip to border Pompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report Dem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors 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.