Former Arizona U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake urged Republican senators Monday to save their souls by taking a strong stand against President Donald Trump.
If they couldn’t bring themselves to remove Trump from office in the event the House impeaches him, at the very least they should oppose his re-election, Flake argued in an Op-Ed for The Washington Post headlined, “Fellow Republicans, there’s still time to save your souls.”
The former officeholder began his piece by quoting himself from an October 2017 speech announcing he would not seek re-election.
“Two years ago I stood in the Senate chamber and said: ‘There are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles,'” he wrote.
Polling showed Flake, who had staked his ground on defying Trump, losing badly in the GOP Senate primary in Arizona.
Flake argued in his Post Op-Ed that he was standing for many principles by opposing Trump, citing the president’s “hostility” toward America’s foreign alliances and trade agreements, his harsh statements about the media and his “resentment toward refugees.”
“At home, I was convinced that his repeated disparagement of the judiciary, antagonism toward Congress and casual disregard for the truth were damaging our democratic institutions, and his persistent crudeness to his political opponents and cruelty toward vanquished foes were degrading our political culture,” Flake wrote.
He said because he did not support Trump, he had in effect forgone any chance of being re-elected in Arizona, though he wished he could have stayed in the Senate.
“Now, two years later, it is my former Republican Senate colleagues who have a decision to make,” Flake contended.
He recounted how a whistleblower complaint against Trump regarding a July phone call with Ukraine’s president and a transcript of that call has now prompted the Democratic House of Representative to launch an investigation. Flake said the House “will likely be forwarding to the Senate at least one article of impeachment.”
“Compelling arguments will be made on both sides of the impeachment question,” he wrote. “With what we now know, the president’s actions warrant impeachment.”
However, Flake said he had “grave reservations about impeachment. I fear that, given the profound division in the country, an impeachment proceeding at such a toxic moment might actually benefit a president who thrives on chaos.”
While the former lawmaker conceded impeachment would be a difficult issue for Republican senators, he said none should support the president’s re-election.
“My fellow Republicans, it is time to risk your careers in favor of your principles,” Flake exhorted. “Whether you believe the president deserves impeachment, you know he does not deserve reelection.”
He concluded: “Trust me when I say that you can go elsewhere for a job. But you cannot go elsewhere for a soul.”
Appearing at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin late last week, Flake said at least 35 GOP senators would vote to impeach Trump if they could do so on a secret ballot, Fox News reported.
“I heard someone say if there were a private vote there would be 30 Republican votes. That’s not true,” Flake said during a Q&A. “There would be at least 35.”
Flake appeared to be reacting to a comment by longtime political consultant Mike Murphy, a former top aide to Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, on MSNBC the previous day.
“One Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump,” Murphy said.
While a simple majority vote is needed in the House to impeach a president, a two-thirds vote in the Senate (67) is required to convict and remove one.
The Republicans currently hold a 53-47 majority, meaning if all Democrats voted to convict Trump, 20 GOP senators would have to side with them for Trump to be removed from office.
Two presidents have been impeached by the House — Andrew Johnson and 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 — but the Senate has never voted to convict and remove one from office.
Flake used the last months before his term ended in January seeking to introduce legislation that would prevent Trump from firing special counsel Robert Mueller.
The senator held up several of Trump’s judicial nominees as leverage, but the gambit ultimately failed.
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