Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican who has been one of the harshest intraparty critics of President Trump, announced on Tuesday that he would not seek reelection to his seat next year.
In a blistering speech on the Senator floor, Flake took aim at President Trump while criticizing his colleagues for allowing an ongoing erosion of political norms.
“There are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. Now is such a time,” Flake said.
“Silence can equal complicity. I have children and grandchildren to answer to and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent,” he continued.
He added that “anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy,” and bemoaned the “flagrant disregard for truth and decency” in politics.
“When the next generation asks us: ‘Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?’ What are we going to say?” he asked.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan both offered praise for the departing senator. But White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said his retirement was “probably a good move.” She called Flake’s comments “petty,” and said he was “just looking for a headline on his way out the door.”
In an interview with the Arizona Republic before his speech, Flake said “there may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party.”
Flake recently published a book, The Conscience of a Conservative, which took aim at the nativist, anti-intellectual forces that have recently animated his party. But his tangible contributions to the anti-Trump cause were not always clear.
His seat was one of the few held by the GOP that was seen as vulnerable to a Democratic challenge in 2018. Flake had already drawn a top-tier Democratic challenger. And he faced a serious primary challenge from his right in Kelli Ward, a Steve Bannon–backed challenger with a history of inflammatory statements.