GOP lawmakers in the upper chamber were surprised and saddened by Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake’s Tuesday announcement that he will not seek reelection in 2018.
Flake, a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, announced his decision shortly after the commander in chief made an appearance at the Senate Republican lunch Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m shocked — I had no indications. You know, Jeff’s a respected member of the caucus,” Georgia Sen. David Perdue told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I mean I’m just stunned actually, he didn’t let on at all he was thinking about this.”
Following his announcement, Flake blasted the state of politics under the Trump administration, alleging that the president undermines “the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters.”
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker — who has also had a contentious relationship with the president and isn’t seeking reelection — praised Flake for his direct rhetoric on his views on Trump.
“He’s kind of quiet but he stands for all the things that have made our nation great and that’s willing to continue to say that even though we have demagogues and others who end up trying to take us in other directions,” Corker said. “And I’m not speaking about any particular person.”
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune said that, while he respects Flake’s decision, he is disappointed to see him go.
“He’s a very principled guy, but obviously he just felt like he couldn’t hang around here anymore. But, you know, he’s come to his conclusions about this place and the administration,” Thune told reporters. “We’ve got to try and win that seat. We’ve got to keep trying to get our work done.”
Flake, who didn’t support Trump in 2016, faced an uphill battle in his campaign. But his colleagues said they don’t think his position was political.
“I think the environment is polarized. I think that reflects a lot of what’s going on the country, that the country is divided, and that makes politics tough,” Thune said.
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