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Republican Jeff Flake says Trump needs to be challenged



Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, one of the few outspoken Republican critics of President Donald Trump, urged members of his political party to challenge the president, days before he is scheduled to retire from Capitol Hill.

“Somebody does need to challenge the president,” Flake said in a Friday interview with CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta. “I think that the country needs to be reminded what it means to be conservative, certainly on the Republican side, and what it means to be decent as well, because we need a lot more of that in our politics,” Flake said.

“We’ve, for whatever reason, have resigned ourselves to two political parties in this country,” Flake continued. “And as long as that’s the case, both parties need to be rational and sane, and try to govern rather than simply put forward the politics of resentment and anger.”

Flake had terse words for Trump, who despite saying he would “take the mantle” and be “proud to shut down the government,” flipped and blamed Democrats for the partial government shutdown, which has been effect since December 22.

A last-ditch effort to pass a bipartisan short-term funding bill was scuttled earlier this month after Trump abruptly pulled his support, citing a lack of funding for a wall on the US-Mexico border. The shutdown is expected to continue into next week, after Congress reconvenes from its winter break.

“Anytime you stand and say ‘I own the shutdown,’ then you own it,” Flake said. “I mean … ‘Shutdown 101’ tells you ‘shift the blame if you can.’ And when the president immediately said ‘I’ll take the blame,’ then he’s got it.”

Read more: Senators react to Jeff Flake’s bombshell announcement that he won’t seek reelection

The senior senator from Arizona, who announced he would retire at the end of his current term in January, opened himself up to criticism from Republicans after distancing himself from Trump’s more controversial policies and rhetoric.

In November, Flake pushed back against Trump’s escalating attacks on news organizations. After a deadly shooting in a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh and a string of bomb scares that targeted Democratic leaders in November, Trump accused news organizations, such as CNN, of “creating violence by not writing the truth.”

“Words matter, and when the president denigrates the press and the First Amendment, and calls real things fake and fake things real, it has a real effect around the world,” Flake said on CNN at the time.

“I agree with the president sometimes, I disagree with him quite a bit,” Flake added.

Asked by Acosta if he planned on running for president as a Republican in 2020, Flake smiled and said he did not rule out the idea.

“There are others that seem more willing than I am,” Flake said. “I’ve been doing this for 18 years now, It’s nice to look forward to a little break.”

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