President Trump lashed out at a pair of Republican senators on Thursday morning, disparaging Sens. Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham after they dared to criticize
Trump notably blasted Flake, an incumbent member of the same party, while praising his primary challenger.
“Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate,” the president tweeted. “He’s toxic!”
Ward, an Arizona state senator and ardent Trump supporter, failed in her bid last year to unseat Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Last month, following McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis, Ward said he should step down “as quickly as possible” — and that she would gladly take his seat for the remainder of his term.
“John McCain is a fighter and an American hero,” Flake responded in a statement. “I’m dumbstruck by Kelli Ward’s comments.”
On Thursday, McCain returned the favor after Trump’s “Flake” attack.
Ward shares some similarities with Trump, including flirting with fringe theories. In 2015, Ward also stirred controversy when she said she had no opinion about “chemtrails,” the conspiracy theory that airplanes, at the direction of the government, are releasing dangerous chemicals into the air in order to change the weather.
“Help President Trump drain the swamp and elect Dr. Kelli Ward,”
Flake, on the other hand, has been outspoken in his criticism of the president. Last month, the Arizona Republican published an anti-Trump book — “Conscience of a Conservative” — that ripped the president’s stability while lamenting his election.
“Volatile unpredictability is not a virtue,” Flake wrote. “We have quite enough volatile actors to deal with internationally as it is without becoming one of them.
“We pretended that the emperor wasn’t naked,” he continued. “Even worse: We checked our critical faculties at the door and pretended that the emperor was making sense.”
On Tuesday, Flake implicitly denounced Trump’s latest comments about the violence in Charlottesville for failing to unequivocally place the blame on white supremacists who gathered there.
“We can’t accept excuses for white supremacy & acts of domestic terrorism,” Flake wrote on Twitter. “We must condemn. Period.”
Flake added: “We can’t claim to be the party of Lincoln if we equivocate in condemning white supremacy.”
“You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” Trump told reporters. “And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now.”
“I think there’s blame on both sides,” the president added. “If you look at both sides — I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either.”
While many members of the GOP denounced Trump’s comments, Graham was one of the few Republicans to call out the president by name.
“President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer,” Graham said a statement Wednesday. “I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency.”
Trump fired back at Graham, who ran against him in the 2016 Republican primary.
“Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer,” Trump wrote, invoking Heyer’s death and Graham’s failed presidential bid in the same tweet. “Such a disgusting lie. He just can’t forget his election trouncing. The people of South Carolina will remember!”
The president then lashed out at his favorite postcampaign target: the media.
“The public is learning (even more so) how dishonest the Fake News is. They totally misrepresent what I say about hate, bigotry etc.,” Trump tweeted. “Shame!”
Graham responded in a statement issued by his office:
Graham added: “History is watching us all.”
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