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‘Let’s face it, he’s a Flake’: Trump launches new attack on the retiring senator from Arizona

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) speaks to journalists during a visit to Havana this week.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) speaks to journalists during a visit to Havana this week. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)

President Trump took fresh aim Thursday at retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, mocking his “record low polling numbers” in his home state and questioning how he could possibly be thinking about running for office again.

Flake (R-Ariz.), who has not ruled out a Republican primary challenge of Trump in 2020, is a frequent Trump critic and released excerpts Wednesday night of a floor speech he plans to deliver accusing the president of providing “not grown-up leadership” on trade.

“How could Jeff Flake, who is setting record low polling numbers in Arizona and was therefore humiliatingly forced out of his own Senate seat without even a fight (and who doesn’t have a clue), think about running for office, even a lower one, again?” Trump wrote. “Let’s face it, he’s a Flake!”

It was not clear to which lower office Trump might be referring.

Flake stoked speculation about a 2020 challenge to Trump in March, when he traveled to New Hampshire, the nation’s first primary state, to deliver an address to a crowd of business leaders and political activists. In his speech, he decried the “degradation of the United States and her values” by the current occupant of the White House.

In his speech at the Politics & Eggs breakfast — long viewed as an obligatory stop for potential presidential candidates — Flake said he hopes a serious Republican does challenge Trump.

“I think that the Republicans want to be reminded what it means to be a traditional, decent Republican,” he said.

In announcing his decision to retire rather than seek reelection this year, Flake said that his party has turned sharply to the right, making it impossible for him to win the Republican nomination to seek another term unless he toed the line on Trump’s actions.

A poll in August 2017 by the Republican firm HighGround found Flake trailing challenger Kelli Ward 43 percent to 28 percent in the GOP primary race.

Trump’s tweet bashing Flake also showed up errantly Thursday in the Twitter account of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Ahead of a visit with Trump at the White House, Abe wrote: “I too look forward to having fruitful talks with my great friend President @realDonaldTrump as always.”

But instead of retweeting an earlier Trump post, in which the president said he was looking forward to meeting with Abe, the Japanese prime minister attached Trump’s tweet about Flake.

The mistaken tweet was quickly deleted, and Abe instead replied to Trump’s tweet directed at him.

Flake seemed to take the mishap in stride, playfully writing on Twitter: “Et tu, Abe?”

Scott Clement contributed to this report.

Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated the name of the firm HighGround as HigherGround.