Election 2020

GOP Senator: Colleagues Should Denounce Trump 'for Good of the Country'

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is interviewed in the Capitol's Senate press gallery on May 10, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

A senator who says he’s not in the “Never Trump” camp but has refused to endorse the GOP presidential nominee declared “some of us need to push back on these statements made by Donald Trump, I think, for the good of the party, for good of the country.”

“We need to because somebody making these kind of statements shouldn’t become president,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told MSNBC. “And I hope that he changes.”

The Washington Post reported last month on tension between Trump and Flake at a Capitol Hill meeting of GOP senators. Flake introduced himself as “the other senator from Arizona — the one who didn’t get captured — and I want to talk to you about statements like that.” Trump reportedly threatened to start publicly attacking the senator, while Flake urged Trump to stop attacking Mexicans. When Trump declared that Flake would lose this year, the senator noted that he’s not up for re-election.

Flake said Monday that Trump’s “notion that we ought to have a religious test for people entering the country is just the antithesis of who we are as American” and is “at the root” of his feud with a Muslim Gold Star family — “and that’s what incensed the Khans so much.”

The senator said he didn’t want to speak for his colleagues on what the breaking point in their support for the nominee would be.

“I think the Muslim ban, for me, was one of those lines. His criticism of John McCain and then some of the positions he’s taken. Not just the tone and tenor of the campaign, but the positions on immigration, for example. You know, just saying we’re going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. We in Arizona need meaningful immigration reform,” Flake said. “The statements made about NATO and our security arrangements with the European countries. You know, that — we can’t have that position and move ahead.’

“So, it’s not just the tone and tenor of the campaign, it’s the positions he’s taken and for me, he’s gone beyond and like I said many Republicans, I respect those who say, I’m going to support the nominee, we hope that he changes. We have 100 days, 99 days left. It’s increasingly unlikely in my view that he’s going to change these positions but I hope he does.”

Flake added that “hope spreads eternal,” because he won’t vote for Hillary Clinton.

“And we have some time left and he chose a good running mate. Mike Pence is a good man. I hope he’s able to move him and move Donald Trump on some of these positions,” the senator said.

“But when he continues to make statements like he did about the Khans, that becomes increasingly unlikely that he is going to change and I think that’s too bad for us.”

Flake accused some of his Republican colleagues of going “too far” in saying Clinton “ought to be locked up, because when you say that it doesn’t allow us to actually have the real debate on a number of topics that we ought to be having a debate on.”

“But, like I said, I can’t vote for Donald Trump given the things he said. I hope he changes. I still want to support our nominee. We’ll see who else is on the ballot.”