Strife of the party
Won’t join him. Can’t beat him.
Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona torched Donald Trump from the Senate floor for “reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior” that is “dangerous to our democracy.”
At the same time, Flake bowed out of seeking re-election, conceding he can’t win his state’s GOP primary next year because as “a traditional conservative,” it “would cause me to compromise far too many principles” to mollify pro-Trump voters.
“We were not made great as a country by indulging or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorying in the things which divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake,” Flake said. “Anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy,” he said.
Trumpism will run its course, Flake predicted. “I think that this fever will break; I don’t know that it’ll break by next year.”
Flake’s announcement came hours after Trump had a Twitter fit over attacks by another retiring GOP senator, Bob Corker of Tennessee. See Tom Brune’s story for Newsday. Click here for a transcript of Flake’s speech and here for video.
The feud with Corker reignited after the senator, who previously doubted Trump’s fitness for the presidency, went on morning shows to say the president seeks to “purposefully divide” and should let Congress take the lead on a tax plan.
Trump opened a five-tweet attack by saying Corker “couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee, is now fighting Tax Cuts.” Corker tweeted back at the “same untruths from an utterly untruthful president” and included a hashtag: “ #AlertTheDaycareStaff.”
Unlike Flake, Corker supported Trump’s election. Any regrets? “Let’s just put it this way, I would not do that again,” Corker told CNN. He said Trump doesn’t even show a “desire to be competent” and “when his term is over, I think the debasement of our nation ... is what he’ll be remembered most for.”
White House: Good riddance
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Corker and Flake were the ones taking the low road with “petty comments.” Flake’s decision not to seek re-election is “probably a good move” and Corker is “maybe trying to get a headline or two on his way out the door,” she said.
Former White House political campaign strategist Steve Bannon, who is organizing challenges to GOP incumbents deemed out of step with Trump, tweeted triumphantly: “Our movement will defeat you in primaries or force you to retire.”
Feasting on applause
Flake and Corker are among 11 Republican senators whom Trump has clashed with at one time or another, according to a tally by CNN. But Trump was pleased about his lunch on Capitol Hill with GOP senators Tuesday.
“Multiple standing ovations! Most are great people who want big Tax Cuts and success for U.S.,” he tweeted.
Trump told them he wanted tax legislation moved forward before they tackle a health care plan. He remained unclear on whether he would support a short-term fix that restores Obamacare subsidies.
Report: Dems paid for dossier
Trump has demanded to know “who paid” for the Russia dossier — the collection of allegations about his past activities in Russia that was compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele
It’s turning out to be a long list, The Washington Post reports. A still-unknown Republican client funded it first, but in April 2016, Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, retained a Washington firm, Fusion GPS, to conduct research on Trump. After that, Fusion hired Steele.
The reports went to Elias, but it’s unclear what he shared with the Clinton campaign and the DNC, the report said.
After the election, the FBI agreed to pay Steele to continue his intelligence-gathering, but the bureau pulled out of the arrangement after the ex-spy’s name surfaced in news reports.
What else is happening
- The chairmen of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees announced a joint investigation into how the FBI handled its election-year probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state.
- GOP leaders of two House committees launched another investigation into the purchase by a Russian firm several years ago of a Canadian company that owned about 20% of U.S. uranium supplies. Trump and his allies have tried to link the deal to Clinton.
- A Trump personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was interviewed behind closed doors by the House intelligence committee as part of its Russia investigation. Two lawmakers familiar with Cohen’s interview said it had been “contentious,” The Associated Press reported.
- The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office is investigating former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for possible money laundering, The Wall Street Journal (pay site) reported. The probe comes as Trump has been interviewing candidates to run the office.
- A protester shouting “Trump is treason” was arrested after throwing a handful of small Russian flags toward the president on his way to the Senate GOP lunch.
- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on a visit to Pakistan, pressed officials to fight terrorists and drive them from hideouts on the country’s territory.
- Kid Rock, acknowledging that his flirtation with a Senate race from Michigan was an elaborate publicity tease, told SiriusXM radio’s Howard Stern that Bannon seriously tried to recruit him.