Jeff Flake, a Fierce Trump Critic, Will Not Seek Re-Election for Senate

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“We’re not here to simply mark time,” the senator said. “Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office, and there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. Now is such a time.”

U.S. Senator Jeff Flake in his 17 minute speech to the Senate today

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WASHINGTON — Senator Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican who has tangled with President Trump for months, announced on Tuesday that he will not seek re-election in 2018, saying he “will no longer be complicit or silent” in the face of the president’s “reckless, outrageous and undignified” behavior.

Mr. Flake made his announcement in an extraordinary, 17-minute speech on the Senate floor, in which he challenged not only the president but also his party’s leadership. He deplored “the casual undermining of our democratic ideals, the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedom and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency” that he said has become so prevalent in American politics.

The remarkable moment came just hours after Mr. Trump had renewed his attacks on another critic in the Republican Party, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, saying he “couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee.” Mr. Corker, appearing more weary than angry, said the president “is debasing our country.”

Mr. Flake’s dramatic decision and the back-and-forth between Mr. Trump and Mr. Corker appeared to mark a moment of decision for the Republican Party. A week ago, Senator John McCain, the senior senator from Arizona, spoke in Philadelphia, decrying the “half-baked, spurious nationalism” that he sees overtaking American politics. Former President George W. Bush, in yet another speech, lamented, “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism.”

But Mr. Flake, choosing the Senate floor for his fierce denunciation, appeared to issue a direct challenge to his party. Without mentioning Mr. Trump by name, Mr. Flake, 54, took direct aim at the president’s policies, notably his isolationist tendencies, but also his behavior and that of his aides. He had already touched on these themes in a book he published in August that was highly critical of the president.

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