- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sen. Jeff Flake said Tuesday he won’t run for re-election next year, complaining that he’d been pushed out by the “coarseness” of President Trump and saying there’s no room for someone like him in the GOP in Washington anymore.

In a stunning speech from the Senate floor, Mr. Flake bemoaned “personal attacks,” “flagrant disregard for truth and decency” and other evils he said have befallen politics — and laid the blame chiefly at the hands of President Trump.

“Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘Tell it like it is,’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified,” he said, speaking just an hour after Mr. Trump had visited with the Senate GOP to try to mend fences.

Mr. Flake was to seek re-election in 2018, but already faced a stiff challenge from the right, and Democratic challengers as well, and he was struggling in the polls.

He acknowledged his difficulties on Tuesday, saying as a pro-free trade, pro-immigration Republican he would have a tough time winning a GOP primary.

Mr. Flake made a reputation as one of Congress’s top deficit-cutters, waging lonely fights against runaway spending during six terms in the House, before carrying his fight to the Senate after winning election to his seat in 2012.

But he also drew the ire of some conservatives by fiercely advocating for legal status for illegal immigrants and arguing for a more open relationship with Cuba.

The senator also was one of President Trump’s top critics in Congress during last year’s campaign, which deeply split Republicans in Arizona, many of whom accused Mr. Flake of abandoning their party.

His decision makes his race the top Democratic target heading into next year.

He joins Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, who also announced he would not seek re-election. Both men become free agents, not beholden to re-election, as they decide how to vote on the agenda Mr. Trump and Republican leaders pursue over the next 14 months.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she hasn’t spoken to Mr. Trump about Mr. Flake, but added “it’s probably a good move,” based on what she said was the lawmaker’s “lack of support” from people in Arizona.

She said voters in both Arizona and Tennessee elected Mr. Trump and had soured on Mr. Flake and Mr. Corker.

Mr. Flake cast his move as a stand for principle, saying worrying about re-election would have meant betraying himself.

He called on colleagues to stand up more to Mr. Trump, saying the Constitution demands fealty not to Mr. Trump as party leader, but to their duty as members of Congress.

“Politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence can equal complicity,” Mr. Flake said. “I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be silent.”

Democrats said Mr. Flake’s decision was a sign of broader problems the GOP faces as it fights an internal war over Mr. Trump.

Mr. Flake gave his speech to an attentive chamber scattered with about 15 other senators from either party, while tourists looked on from the galleries above.

Mr. Corker and Sen. John McCain, a fellow Arizona Republican who’s sparred with Mr. Trump, listened to the speech from their seats mere feet away, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also watched, intently, from his customary chair up front.

Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican and frequent Trump critic, showed up about halfway through and appeared to clap first when the speech concluded.

Senators from both parties shook Mr. Flake’s hand or offered a hug afterward.

Dave Boyer contributed to this story.

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