GOP Sen. Jeff Flake will not run for re-election in 2018

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Arizona Senator Jeff Flake announced he will not be running for re-election. 

Flake has been a vocal critic of President Trump and has now become the second Republican Senator, after Tennessee’s Bob Corker, to give up his seat. 

Amid the GOP’s high-stakes push for tax reform, President Trump met Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill Tuesday to plan a tax strategy, but feuds within his own party dominated the day.

President Trump tried to sell his tax plan and revive the agenda of a fractured Republican Party, but only an hour after leaving with a wave and a smile, Republican Senator Jeff Flake delivered a stinging rebuke about the president.

"We must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal," Senator Flake said about his announcement that he would not seek re-election and his blunt concession that he’s no longer comfortable with Trump’s Republican Party.

"There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal — but mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people," he added.

All this on the same day the president picked a new fight with Sen. Bob Corker, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called Flake’s decision to leave the Senate "good news" and blasted his speech as inappropriate. 

"I noticed that a lot of the language I didn’t think was befitting of the Senate floor," Sanders said.

She also defended the president’s fight with Corker.

"He’s a fighter, we’ve said it many times before. The people of this country didn’t elect somebody to be weak they elected somebody to be strong," Sanders said.

After Corker said in a round of morning television interviews the president should leave details of the tax plan to Congress, President Trump launched a searing attack on Twitter.

Senator Corker fired off this rebuttal:

The exchange between devolved from there. Corker, who decided against seeking re-election next year, said the president did not refuse to endorse him.

"No, that’s not accurate. You know, nothing that he said in his tweets today have credit, and people around him, I would hope the staff over there would figure out ways of controlling him," he said.

When asked by CNN’s Manu Raju if the president is a liar, Corker had this to say: "The president has great difficulty with the truth. On many issues."

When asked whether he would support him again, Corker did not hesitate: "No way. No way. I think that he’s proven himself unable to rise to the occasion."

Taken together, the decision by Flake, who also quarreled repeatedly with the president, underscored the challenges facing the GOP and potential complications to the president’s agenda.

"Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as telling it like it is when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified. And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else. It is dangerous to a democracy," Flake said.

The move stunned Republicans and overshadowed discussion of a tax plan the party is still hoping will be the one major legislative accomplishment of the year.

House Speaker Paul Ryan was among GOP leaders trying to extinguish the unusual, and to many, the unseemly civil war.

When it comes to the president’s agenda, Senate Republicans can only afford to lose two votes, if all Democrats vote against bills on the floor. 

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