Trump slams 2 GOP senators as 'toxic' and 'publicity seeking'

Sens. Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham have often criticized the president.

ByABC News
August 17, 2017, 10:59 AM

— -- President Trump this morning went after two Republican senators who criticized his comments about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday.

Trump tweeted earlier today, “Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against” Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who is up for re-election in 2018, adding that he is “a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!”

Trump and Flake have had a rocky relationship. Flake refused to vote for Trump in the presidential election, and earlier this year, Flake’s book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” was published, which can be seen as a strong rebuke of Trump.

Flake criticized the president's comments on Tuesday that white supremacists and counterprotesters were equally at fault for the violence in Charlottesville, where dozens of people were injured and Heather Heyer was killed when a driver rammed his car into a crowd of counterdemonstrators.

John McCain, who has feuded with Trump and is the senior senator from Arizona, came to Flake's defense.

Ward faced off against McCain for his Senate seat in 2016 and this year made controversial remarks about him after he revealed that he had a brain tumor.

Trump is reportedly expected to endorse one of Flake's challengers at a rally in Phoenix next Tuesday.

Trump also singled out Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Thursday.

On Wednesday, referring to Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville, Graham said in a statement, “Through his statements yesterday, President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer. I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency.”

Trump wrote in a series of Twitter posts the next day, “Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer.”

“Such a disgusting lie,” Trump continued. “[Graham] just can’t forget his election trouncing.”

After those tweets, Graham released a statement saying, “Mr. President, like most I seek to move our nation, my state and our party forward — toward the light — not back to the darkness ... Because of the manner in which you have handled the Charlottesville tragedy, you are now receiving praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country. For the sake of our nation — as our president — please fix this.”

After Trump addressed the country on Sunday — his second statement on Charlottesville — condemning the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups by name and stating that “racism is evil,” Graham responded with a simple tweet: “Well done Mr. President.”

ABC News’ John Verhovek and Saisha Talwar contributed to this report.

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