Senator Jeff Flake is no friend of President Donald Trump. The junior senator from Arizona has been one of this administration’s harshest critics from within the Republican party.
In an interview with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, Flake took Trump to term on various issues including his continued attacks on the press. Saying that “words matter,” Flake pointed to the President’s continued verbal assault on journalists and the press in general.
In reference to Trump’s rhetoric and apparent friendliness with foreign dictators like Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Arizona’s junior senator said that the President’s actions were changing politics in the United States for the worse.
“Well, I mean, I think that the risk is that this becomes normalized and we take as normal what is abnormal,” said Senator Flake. “We should never normalize this kind of behavior, particularly from the president of the United States. So I think it does real damage long term to the political culture. It really does.”
Chuck Todd also asked Senator Flake about President Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminum. The White House released a proclamation on Thursday announcing the new tariffs. In the proclamation, President Trump specifically exempted Canada and Mexico from the tariffs. His proclamation goes on further to explain that other countries may be given exemptions if it is in the interest of the United States.
“Should the United States and any such country arrive at a satisfactory alternative means to address the threat to the national security such that I determine that imports from that country no longer threaten to impair the national security, I may remove or modify the restriction on steel articles imports from that country and, if necessary, make any corresponding adjustments to the tariff as it applies to other countries as our national security interests require,” explained the President in his proclamation.
Contrary to Trump administration officials, Senator Flake sees the tariffs as harmful to the US economy and the possibility of exemptions as an added detriment.
“You know, the problem is when you, when you say, “All right. Let’s have tariffs. But let’s couple that with uncertainty,” that’s almost worse. I mean, those are dual poisons to the economy. You know, tariffs are awful. Tariffs married to uncertainty is probably even worse. And then to have a president in a position to say, “All right. Australia, all right. What are you going to do for me?” Or wake up one day and say, “You know, let’s impose more tariffs here or there,” that’s an awful situation to be. And where one person is basically deciding, you know, tariffs go up or down depending on what kind of behavior. Is it something else he doesn’t like? It’s just — It’s not the way to do business.”
Since announcing his retirement from the Senate last October, Flake has been a harsh critic of President Trump and the direction of his party. Speculation that he may run for the White House has picked up recently because of a planned trip to New Hampshire.
While Chuck Todd did not ask Senator Flake if he was planning to make a bid for the White House in 2020, he did ask if Trump “needs to be challenged from somebody who espouses your views?”
“Yes, I do. I do,” answered Flake. “I mean, it would be a tough go in a Republican primary. The Republican Party is the Trump party right now. But that’s not to say it will stay that way.”