Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, explaining his surprise announcement Tuesday that he will not seek re-election in 2018, said on "Good Morning America" today, "I just can't continue with this kind of politics."
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Flake, the junior Arizona senator, continued, "I couldn't go on and run the kind of campaign that I wanted to run and win in this kind of Republican Party."
Flake told his Senate colleagues Tuesday that he will retire from the chamber when his term is up in 2019, and he used his announcement to deliver an impassioned speech against President Trump. Flake chose not to support Trump, his party's candidate for president, in the 2016 election and was critical of Trump in his book "Conscience of a Conservative," which was published in August.
"We've gotten nine months into the administration. Those of us who had hoped for a pivot, I think, agree now it's just not going to come, and so it's up to us to stand up and say this is not acceptable," Flake said on "GMA," echoing his speech on Tuesday.
Sen. Bob Corker, another Republican who's retiring, called Trump "utterly untruthful" and accused him of "debasing" the United States just before Flake took to the Senate floor to say he would not be "complicit or silent" in regard to Trump and his behavior.
"A lot of my colleagues have spoken out, and I think a lot more will," Flake said on "GMA."
Trump later attempted to shoot down Flake's prediction that more of his colleagues will speak out against the president, tweeting that GOP senators gave him a "standing [ovation]" when he met with them on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
Jeff Flake, with an 18% approval rating in Arizona, said "a lot of my colleagues have spoken out." Really, they just gave me a standing O!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2017
But Flake said Congress should "certainly" act if Trump follows through on some of the threats he has made. He cited Trump's threat to revoke television network licenses — which critics have argued is a threat to rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Flake argued that his colleagues must also "speak out against the tweeting and the behavior that just isn't becoming and is beneath the office of the president."
He didn't rule out challenging Trump in 2020 for the Republican presidential nomination. "You know, that's a long time away. And we'll deal with that when it comes to it," Flake said.
With 14 months left in his term, he said he plans to focus on pushing for an authorization for use of military force against terrorist groups and finding a solution for enrollees in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program, which the Trump administration announced last month it will wind down.