Senator Flake expects more Republicans to denounce Trump

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Jeff Flake said on Wednesday he expects more Republican colleagues to speak out against Donald Trump’s behavior and policies, one day after denouncing the Republican president in a fiery speech.

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Flake had accused Trump of “reckless, outrageous and undignified” behavior and said his “instinct to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people.”

His condemnation in a speech on the Senate floor came just hours after Senator Bob Corker, another Republican, lashed out at Trump as “an utterly untruthful president” who was debasing the United States.

Flake, who is not seeking re-election in Arizona next year, said on Wednesday he thinks other Republican lawmakers will join him in standing up to Trump.

“Privately a number of my colleagues have expressed concern about the direction of our politics and the behavior of the president,” Flake told CNN. “There comes a tipping point where you realize we just can’t continue to normalize this kind of behavior so I do think we’ll have more people stand up in the coming months.”

Trump responded by saying Flake’s feud with him probably would have cost him with voters and that he would have lost if he had sought re-election.

“He was against me before he ever knew me,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday. “He would have never won. He did the smart thing for himself. This way he can get out somewhat gracefully.”

Despite control of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, Republicans have yet to deliver any major legislative victories this year on priorities such as tax reform, healthcare and immigration.

Republican Senator John McCain, who is fighting brain cancer, also has spoken out sharply against Trump.

But most Republicans in Congress have either remained silent or tried to play down divisions inside their party as Trump has attacked lawmakers, the media and others he sees as opposing or trying to undermine his presidency.

“I think people should settle their differences personally,” Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. “I think it’s better that way. I think it’s in our interest to have party unity so that we can continue to work forward on an agenda.”

So far, the fierce criticism from Flake and Corker has drawn more praise from Democrats than from fellow Republicans.

“History will judge Senator Flake and Senator Corker as two men of the greatest conscience to have graced this chamber on either side of the aisle in a long time,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said.

Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Bill Trott