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'I won't be complicit': Republican senator announces retirement with fiery speech against Trump

Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker have said they won’t be seeking re-election.

Senator Jeff Flake
Senator Jeff Flake
Image: Manuel Balce Ceneta via AP

A PAIR OF senators from US president Donald Trump’s own Republican party blistered him with criticism last night after a dramatic day of denunciation that laid bare a party at war with itself.

Jeff Flake of Arizona declared he would not be “complicit” with Trump and announced his surprise retirement, while Bob Corker of Tennessee declared the president “debases our nation” with constant untruths and name-calling.

Senator Bob Corker, too, is retiring at the end of his term, and the White House shed no tears at the prospect of the two Republican senators’ departures.

A former adviser to Steve Bannon, Trump’s ex-strategic adviser, called it all “a monumental victory for the Trump movement”, and Trump himself boasted to staff members that he’d played a role in forcing the senators out.

It was a stunning rebuke of a sitting president from prominent members of his own party – and added to a chorus of criticism of Trump that has been growing louder and more public. Flake challenged his fellow senators to follow his lead, but there were few immediate signs they would.

‘Emotional speech’ 

At midafternoon, as fellow lawmakers sat in attentive silence, Flake stood at his Senate desk and delivered an emotional speech in which he dissected what he considered his party’s accommodations with Trump and said he could no longer play a role in them.

“We were not made great as a country by indulging in or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorifying in the things that divide us and calling fake things true and true things fake,” he said.

Source: CNN/YouTube

Hours earlier, Corker levelled his own searing criticism of Trump in a series of interviews.

“I think the debasement of our nation will be what he’ll be remembered most for and that’s regretful,” Corker said.

A furious Trump didn’t let that pass unremarked. On Twitter, he called Corker “incompetent”, said he “doesn’t have a clue” and claimed the two-term lawmaker “couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee”.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in regard to the impending retirements:

The people both in Tennessee and Arizona supported this president, and I don’t think that the numbers are in the favor of either of those two senators in their states and so I think this was probably the right decision.

Away from the cameras, Trump took credit for helping force the two departures, according to a White House official and an outside adviser, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Years to come

Corker’s retirement plans also underscore the question of what the Republican party will look like in years to come. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has warned that some candidates running with the backing of Trump allies could not win general elections. And even if they make it to the Senate, certain conservatives could make McConnell’s job even harder as he tries to manoeuvre legislation through a narrow majority that now stands at 52-48.

Bob Corker Senator Bob Corker Source: AP

Steven Law, head of a McConnell-allied super PAC that supports the Republican incumbents and establishment-aligned candidates, wasted no time issuing a statement declaring that Republican former state senator Kelli Ward, who was running against Flake with the encouragement of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, “will not be the Republican nominee for this Senate seat in 2018″.

Many fellow Republicans had expected Flake to lose the primary and hope they will now be able to recruit a stronger candidate.

Talking principle rather than politics, Flake said on the Senate floor, “We must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it because it does. I plan to spend the remaining 14 months of my Senate term doing just that.”

Earlier Corker had said of Trump: “His governing model is to divide and to attempt to bully and to use untruths.”

He said that he and others in the party had attempted to intervene with Trump over the months, sometimes at the behest of White House officials, but “he’s obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president.”

Unfortunately I think world leaders are very aware that much of what he says is untrue.

Read: Trump gives thumbs-up to protester shouting ‘Trump is treason’ while throwing Russian flags at him

More: Pregnant widow of killed US soldier says phone call from Donald Trump made ‘me cry even worse’

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Associated Press

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