White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not hold back when responding to criticism of the Trump administration from Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Flake, who has continued to publicly feud with the White House, took to the Senate floor Tuesday to denounce comments made by President Donald Trump.
Sanders, not known for mincing words, promptly hit back with a cutting line, suggesting that no one really cares what the retiring and unpopular senator has to say anymore.
“I don’t really care what Sen. Flake has to say, I don’t think his constituents do either and I think that’s why his numbers are in the tank,” Sanders stated during the Tuesday news briefing.
The sharp rebuke comes after Flake used his time on the Senate floor to criticize Trump for suggesting that Democrats who refused to clap during his State of the Union speech were guilty of treason.
“One who levels such a charge knows neither the meaning of treason nor the power that the words of a president carry,” Flake said of the president’s comments a day prior. “Our silence will also mark the day that we failed to recognize that this conduct in an American president is simply not normal.”
“I have seen the president’s most ardent defenders use the now weary argument that the president’s comments were meant as a joke, just sarcasm, only tongue-in-cheek, but treason is not a punch line,” he continued.
Flake’s speech came one day after the president spoke at a campaign-style event in Ohio.
While touting the success of GOP-led tax reform, the president also knocked the mainstream media and Democrats. In what the White House and many supporters are calling a tongue-in-cheek comment, Trump suggested that the Democrats were guilty of treason during his State of the Union address when they refused to stand and clap as he touched on many of the country’s accomplishments.
“Can we call that treason? Why not?” Trump asked the crowd.
Sanders reiterated that the comments were made in jest.
“The president was clearly joking with his comments but what isn’t a joke is that Democrats refuse to celebrate the accomplishments of last year that has helped all Americans,” the press secretary said.
Flake, however, did not find the line humorous. He used the opportunity to yet again attack the president.
“We must recognize that this is abhorrent, destructive behavior — whatever rationale its defenders may offer, and we must never shrink from opposing it,” he said in his closing remarks.
The exchange is the latest in the feud between Trump and Flake, who announced he would not be seeking re-election and would instead retire from the upper chamber of Congress.
Amid dismal poll numbers, Flake announced in October 2017 that he would not run for another term. His move avoids what would have been a possible defeat in the GOP primary. At the time, Flake was suffering bleak approval numbers and former state Sen. Kelli Ward was polling well above him.
A Morning Consult poll released last summer showed Flake to have a 37 percent approval rating from registered voters. Additionally, a HighGround survey revealed Flake trailing Ward 42 percent to 25 percent.
Well before he won the presidential election, Trump criticized the junior senator from Arizona — publicly deriding him during campaign events in his home state.
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