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Flake's Decision Is The Latest Move In An Ongoing GOP Civil War


NPR's Ron Elving has been listening along with us, and he's on the line. Hi, Ron.


INSKEEP: What did you hear there?

ELVING: You know, what we heard was a speech unlike anything we can remember hearing or seeing in a very long time. You have to go back 40-some years, really, to Watergate, the final days of Richard Nixon, to hear Republicans publicly questioning the fundamental integrity of their own president the way Senator Flake and also Senator Bob Corker did yesterday.

INSKEEP: And we should note Flake has a policy issue with the president - policies on trade, policies on immigration - and yet when we ask him about his criticism it seems to get down mainly to character for him.

ELVING: No question. It's not really policy, it's not an appointment, it's not money. It's not even politics. It's the offense that Jeff Flake and some of the other senators are taking at the manner in which Donald Trump pursues the presidency, particularly with respect to other countries, and to the dignity of the office and also to the divisiveness with which the president oftentimes seems to deal with issues or with critics and even with members of his own party in Congress.

INSKEEP: And yet there is a policy aspect here because of trade, because of immigration. Flake didn't think he could even win his own state's primary with his views on trade and immigration being different than the president. Does his retirement mean the Republican Party is shifting further in President Trump's direction?

ELVING: It's hard to argue that they are. Whether or not this is really what most Republicans want, the party is coming to be the party of Trump. And Steve Bannon, who left the White House, going back to Breitbart, is organizing a campaign of challengers to incumbent Republican senators who are on the ballot next year insisting that they pledge fealty to Trump and also say that they would vote against Mitch McConnell, the current Senate Republican leader...

INSKEEP: And we should - absolutely. And that's NPR's Ron Elving this morning. Thanks, Ron. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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