Tags: Jeff Flake | Donald Trump | Republicans | GOP

Jeff Flake: 'I Couldn't Sleep at Night' Backing Trump

Jeff Flake: 'I Couldn't Sleep at Night' Backing Trump
Sen. Jeff Flake. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
 

By    |   Saturday, 28 October 2017 04:43 PM

Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake said Saturday that "I couldn’t sleep at night" backing President Donald Trump's actions and behavior, a critical factor in his announcement this week not to seek a second term next year.

"I couldn’t sleep at night having to embrace the president or condoning his behavior or being OK with some of his positions," Flake, who also served 12 years in the House, told The Washington Post in an interview. "I just couldn’t do it.

"It was never in the cards."

Flake, 54, announced his retirement Tuesday in a speech excoriating Trump on the Senate floor.

The decision culminated months of battling between the president and the senator, who also slammed Trump in his book, "The Conscience of a Conservative," published in May.

"I knew that when I spoke out at that time that I was out of step with a lot of the Republican primary voters, but I felt that I had to do it," Flake told the Post.

"I had hoped — and I still hope and I’m confident at some point — that the fever will break," he added. "But it just became more and more apparent that it certainly wasn’t going to break by next year."

Polling data also showed that Flake would most likely lose next year's Republican primary to a pro-Trump candidate.

Kelli Ward, former Republican state senator, launched her campaign against Flake after last year's presidential election.

She unsuccessfully challenged Sen. John McCain for a sixth term last fall — and Ward remains the only Republican candidate for the Senate so far.

The primary winner next year will most likely face a popular Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema, a congresswoman representing the Phoenix area, in the general election.

"The truth of the matter is, Jeff Flake is down by double digits in the polls against Kelli Ward," Jarrod White, a longtime party activist and Arizona delegate to the Republican National Convention last year, told the Post.

"He knows he’s not going to win," White added. "I think he chose to quit and be 'dignified' and get his final lashes out at Trump."

President Trump has relentlessly ripped Flake on Twitter and told reporters Wednesday that "he did the smart thing for himself" by retiring.

"The attacks on Trump are totally unsustainable for anyone," one Republican strategist told the Post. "You don’t have to be best friends with the guy, but you can’t do what Flake did."

Flake announced his decision shortly after a luncheon with Trump and other Republican senators.

He told the Post that he had discussed next year's race generally with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, but gave him no major advance warning.

Flake also did not inform Vice President Mike Pence, a longtime friend with whom he had once served in the House.

"I didn’t want to put him in a bad position of knowing that and not sharing it," Flake said of the vice president. "He's a trusted friend."

They have not spoken since Flake's announcement, he told the Post.

Though he is retiring, Flake cautioned other Republicans seeking re-election next year against embracing him too closely.

Any GOP member who "simply aligns themselves for the purpose of the primary with the president on every issue and basically contracts out any thinking on policy issues, and is willing to condone any behavior that the president exhibits," Flake told the Post, "I think they put themselves at great risk in a general election."

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Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake said Saturday that "I couldn't sleep at night" backing President Donald Trump's actions and behavior, a critical factor in his announcement this week not to seek a second term next year.
Jeff Flake, Donald Trump, Republicans, GOP
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2017-43-28
Saturday, 28 October 2017 04:43 PM
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