Trump blasts Flake for pushing measure to protect Mueller

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 escalated his long-standing feud with 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 (R-Ariz.) on Friday, slamming the retiring senator for trying to force a vote on legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller.

“Jeff Flake(y) doesn’t want to protect the Non-Senate confirmed Special Counsel, he wants to protect his future after being unelectable in Arizona for the 'crime' of doing a terrible job! A weak and ineffective guy!” Trump tweeted Friday.

Flake, on Thursday, said he and Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSunday shows preview: Washington heads into multi-day shutdown Overnight Energy: Senators introduce bipartisan carbon tax bill | House climate panel unlikely to have subpoena power | Trump officials share plan to prevent lead poisoning Flake to co-introduce bipartisan climate bill MORE (D-Del.) would go to the Senate floor next week to try to get a deal on advancing the legislation.

The Senate Judiciary Committee last year passed a bill to protect Mueller — or any other special counsel — in the event he is fired, but that legislation stalled amid opposition from GOP leadership. Any new legislation would likely meet the same fate with the Republicans’ expanded majority in the upper chamber. 

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The president has long criticized Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, denouncing it as a “witch hunt.”

Mueller and the future of his special counsel investigation were thrown into question on Wednesday when Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard Sessions5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony AG pick Barr emphasizes independence from Trump Hillicon Valley: Trump AG pick signals new scrutiny on tech giants | Wireless providers in new privacy storm | SEC brings charges in agency hack | Facebook to invest 0M in local news MORE announced he was resigning at Trump's request. Soon after Sessions's resignation, Trump announced he would be replaced with acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.

Whitaker has been the focus of scrutiny for his history of public comments criticizing the special counsel investigation. The announcement on Wednesday of his appointment to oversee the special counsel's investigation sparked immediate calls from Democrats for Whitaker to recuse himself and for Congress to pass legislation protecting Mueller.

Thousands around the U.S. participated in protests Thursday evening to "Protect Mueller."

Trump’s comments come two days after he took credit for Flake’s retirement.

“I retired him. I’m very proud of it, I did the country a great service," Trump said during a lengthy press conference at the White House.

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.

Flake has since remained a public critic of Trump’s rhetoric.