Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) has been one of President Donald Trump’s most outspoken critics in Congress—at least, as far as Republicans go. It now seems Flake regrets there are so few willing to speak out against the President. On Sunday, May 27, the retiring Senator called on fellow Republicans to stand up to the President, especially in light of the growing possibility that Trump may fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation against the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
ICYMI: @jeffflake says Republicans in Congress "have got to do better" on standing up to the president. "It's [the] responsibility of Congress, particularly in the president's party, to say that is not right. Truth is not relative. There are no 'alternative facts' here" #MTP pic.twitter.com/haDvdluzB2— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) May 28, 2018
During an interview with Meet the Press, Flake commented:
When the president says things that are just totally wrong, it’s the responsibility of members of Congress, particularly those in the president’s party, to stand up and say, ‘That is not right. Truth is not relative, and there are no alternative facts here,’ And I have seen instances where we haven’t done that well, and we’ve got to do it better.
Of course they won't stand up to him. Unlike you, they're trying to get re-elected. Politicians only get brave when they have nothing (elections) to lose.— Penny Gaye (@GayePenny) May 27, 2018
Flake’s comments are also partially in response to an interview with The Washinton Post by Rudy Guiliani, Trump’s lawyer, in which he claims “truth is relative.”
Giuliani now says he would prefer the president grant an interview with Mueller, even though "truth is relative." He says he does not expect Trump to make any changes at DOJ and POTUS is optimistic. "He feels the public opinion is turning in his favor." https://t.co/HV2movrfd1— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) May 23, 2018
Behind the scenes, there is also reportedly a growing sense of fear that Trump will take steps to fire Robert Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, moves which have been rumored since the Special Counsel was appointed just over a year ago. If that happens, Flake hopes Republicans can step up to the plate:
I can tell you behind the scenes there is a lot of alarm.There is concern that the president is laying the groundwork to move on Bob Mueller or [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein, and if that were to happen, obviously, that would cause a constitutional crisis.
On possible sit down with Robert Mueller, President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani to @BillHemmer: “The reality is we're not going to sit him down if this is a trap for perjury…he wants to explain that he did nothing wrong.” pic.twitter.com/j2vnLz4axI— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) May 27, 2018
Though Giuliani has said there is “no discussion of firing Mueller,” he has also repeatedly insisted the investigation was begun on false pretenses. This causes Flake more than a little concern:
There is concern behind the scenes. I’ve been concerned that we haven’t spoken up loudly enough and told the president, ‘You simply can’t go there.’ And he’s obviously probing the edges as much as he can, to see how far Congress will go, and we’ve got to push back harder than we have.
Giuliani has also begun saying the President would be willing to sit down for a conversation with Mueller, claiming he’s “got nothing to hide,” though his lawyers still warn him such an interview might be a “perjury trap.”
The obstruction part [of the investigation], I’m not as comfortable with, I’m not. The president’s fine with it. He’s innocent. I’m not comfortable because it’s a matter of interpretation, not just hard and fast true-not true.
Rudy Giuliani says the president should refuse an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, unless a condition is met. Giuliani says Trump's lawyers should be allowed to review classified information showing how the Russia investigation began https://t.co/0mwtmOD3ny pic.twitter.com/SG2E3UJjrh— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) May 28, 2018
Flake announced last fall he would not be running for re-election and has cited the difficulties of winning a primary while criticizing the president as one reason for his withdrawal. Though he believes standing up to the president is the right thing to do, he also acknowledges many Republicans are fearful of doing so because of the harm it would cause them among voters:
This is the president’s party, and if you’re running in a primary right now and you stand up to the president, or stand up in some cases for empirical truth, then you have trouble in primaries. And that’s no doubt. So, I do think, as we get through the primary season, perhaps, then many of my colleagues will find a voice, but right now, it’s difficult politically.
Though he’s leaving the Senate, Flake has left open the possibility of a 2020 presidential run.
Sen. Flake hopes President Trump would face a challenge from a GOP member in 2020 'simply to remind Republicans what conservatism is, and what Republicans have traditionally stood for'https://t.co/WCfy2WuSEj— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) May 27, 2018