WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Jeff Flake says his fellow Republicans have let President Donald Trump lead the country away from conservative principles and democratic ideals. But the Arizona lawmaker predicts they won't back down if Trump fires the special prosecutor investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Flake appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday and discussed his new book "Conscience of a Conservative" in which he expands on his concerns for the country. He said he's particularly concerned conservative tenets of free trade and limited government have been lost to a national leadership that is erratic, mean-spirited and self-serving.
Asked what would finally elicit vociferous objections from Republicans, Flake said the firing of special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
"We can't stand for that," Flake said. "I don't think Congress will."
Flake took his own party to task as well as Democrats, blaming both in a new book for the political gridlock that led to Trump's presidency and its current chaos.
The debut of his book comes amid turmoil in the White House marked by Anthony Scaramucci's rocky 11 days as communications director and the replacement of the chief of staff. Flake says his fellow Republicans are in denial about Trump.
The senator says that since the election conservatives have been in denial as the government at its highest levels has become dysfunctional.
"To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties. And tremendous powers of denial," Flake wrote in an excerpt published by Politico.
Flake was highly critical of Trump during the presidential campaign, but has sought to reach common ground and backed some of the administration's initiatives, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's backup proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it later. But he worries that Trump's penchant for bombast and ridiculing his opponents works against conservative goals.
"If we ascribe the worst motives to our opponents and demean them and call them clowns or losers, you just lose the ability to sit down and solve the big issues and actually enact conservative policy," Flake told MSNBC. He added, "You know, somehow conservativism has become being mean or loud and you can't enact conservative policy if you act that way."
The book published by Random House goes on sale Tuesday.
Flake says in the book that people who felt abandoned by the top parties were drawn to Trump, "a candidate who entertained them and offered oversimplified answers" to complex issues.
"If by 2017 the conservative bargain was to go along for the very bumpy ride because with congressional hegemony and the White House we had the numbers to achieve some long-held policy goals — even as we put at risk our institutions and our values — then it was a very real question whether any such policy victories wouldn't be Pyrrhic ones," Flake wrote.
Scaramucci left his post in the Trump administration on Monday, days after he let loose an expletive-filled rant against senior staff members, including then-chief of staff Reince Priebus. A White House statement said he left so that the new chief of staff, former Homeland Secretary John Kelly, could build his own team.