Flake: Trump's Russia summit ‘truly an Orwellian moment’

Flake: Trump's Russia summit ‘truly an Orwellian moment’
© Greg Nash

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 (R-Ariz.) on Thursday blasted President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE's rhetoric during his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling it an "Orwellian moment" and the result of his colleagues indulging in "myths and fabrications" on Trump administration policies.

"Well, we saw earlier this week in Helsinki what was a truly an Orwellian moment," Flake said from the Senate floor.

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"I will say that if ever there was a moment to think not of your party but of your country, this is it. This is a not a moment for spin, deflection, justification, circling the wagons, forgetting, moving along to the next news cycle or for more of Orwell’s doublespeak," Flake said, referring to George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984."

He added that Trump's remarks at a joint press conference after the summit in Helsinki, Finland, where the president refused to denounce Russia's election meddling and appeared to echo Putin's denials, gave lawmakers a "dose of reality" about Trump's policies.

"We have indulged myths and fabrications, pretended that it wasn’t so bad, and our indulgence got us the capitulation in Helsinki. We in the Senate who have been elected to represent our constituents cannot be enablers of falsehoods," Flake continued.

Flake's speech came shortly before another senator, Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell, GOP leaders say they won't be watching House impeachment hearing GOP senators warn against Trump firing intelligence community official Falling investment revives attacks against Trump's tax cuts MORE (R-Texas), blocked the passage of a resolution from Flake and Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsCentrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Bill Gates visits Capitol to discuss climate change with new Senate caucus The Memo: ISIS leader's death is no game-changer for Trump MORE (D-Del.) that would have given Senate support to the intelligence community's finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Flake, who is retiring after 2018, has emerged as one of Trump's most vocal GOP critics, especially on foreign policy. But Trump sparked widespread backlash on Monday when he refused to denounce Russia's election meddling.

Trump tried to walk back the comments on Tuesday when he said he accepted the intelligence community's finding, but he added that it could be "other people" too.

"What we saw last week in Helsinki is what happens when you wage war on objective reality for two solid years, calling real things fake and fake things real, as if conditioning others to embrace this same confusion," Flake said on Thursday.

He added that the reaction to Trump's comments ranged from "heartbreak to horror" and that Trump failed "to summon reality in the face of a despot and in defense of your country."

"To reject these findings ... is an act of will on the part of the president, and that choice now leaves us contemplating a dark mystery: Why did he do that? What would compel our president to do such a thing?" Flake questioned.