Sen. Jeff Flake on Being a Republican in the Age of Trump
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because American politics is a tricky business especially if you don’t toe the party line.
By Sean Braswell
Former U.S. Senator Jeff Flake sat down with OZY’s co-founder and CEO on The Carlos Watson Show to talk about his time in the Senate, including how he dealt with President Trump and the controversial Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Brett Kavanaugh. Here are some of the best bites from their hourlong conversation, which can be found on The Carlos Watson Show podcast feed.
On Standing Up to His Party and President Trump
Carlos Watson: In 2017, I like to joke that you did a full on Jimmy Stewart, you were kind of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. And you gave this impassioned speech on the Senate floor about courage, about doing the right thing. What happened after you did that?
Senator Jeff Flake: Well, a lot of my colleagues on the Republican side and the Democratic side said nice things afterwards. For those on the Republican side, were a little more careful of what they said afterwards, because right now, President Trump controls this party. And if you are up for reelection anytime in the future, and certainly at that time, you knew that the president could pick up the phone and generate a primary for you that you would not survive. And so, that really conditioned a lot of people’s response….I was grateful to be able to still have 15 months after I announced that I would retire…to speak out. And I tried to use every platform I could to talk about the dangers that were coming if we didn’t turn around. And I certainly didn’t change the president or his policies, but I did what I knew was right.
CW: Have you met with President Trump, one-on-one at any point?
JF: Yes. Several times…When he secured the nomination, he came to the Senate and met with Senate Republicans…And he pointed at me at the back of the room and said, “You’ve been very critical of me.” That was my first contact with him. And I said, “Yes, I have.” I said, “By the way, I’m the other Senator from Arizona, the one that wasn’t captured.” And I said, ” And you have to stop saying these things about John McCain.” And then I said, “And you also have to stop saying the things about Hispanics that you’re saying, because you’re going to kill the party.” … So that meeting didn’t go too well.
Navigating the Kavanaugh Confirmation
CW: If you had to do it all over again, would you still have supported [Justice Brett] Kavanaugh or did you make a mistake?
JF: I knew that the Senate, as an institution, we had not done due diligence. And that’s why I insisted on an FBI investigation [of the allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford]…those aren’t made public, only those Senators who voted on it saw that investigation… I think the country would feel better about where the Senate ended up if they had read that report.
CW: In the end, did you believe Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony that she had been assaulted?
JF: I mean, it’s tough to believe. And I said on the Senate floor during that time, when you had a situation where you had two teenagers who both admittedly were drinking at the time, I’m not sure we’ll ever know what happened. And so, I don’t know or somebody could believe in their heart that this happened and may not have. We just don’t know in this case. But like I said, to set a standard where a mere allegation is enough to disqualify someone is no standard or precedent that we want to adopt. And so, I did believe that there were sufficient questions about the testimony that justified his elevation to the Supreme Court.