Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
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Early Wednesday, President Trump tweeted that his closed-door lunch with Senate Republicans the day before was a “love fest with standing ovations and great ideas for USA!”
Senators had described the meeting to BuzzFeed News as “pleasant” and lacking in “fireworks,” and the goodwill it was meant to foster evaporated throughout the day as Trump sparred with Republican Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee.
Both Corker and Flake harshly criticized the president's policies and conduct Tuesday, with Corker saying Trump was “debasing our nation.” Neither Senator is seeking reelection.
“I think many of us, me included, have tried to, you know, intervene, and I have had a private dinner and have been with him on multiple occasions to try and create some kind of aspirational approach, if you will, to the way that he conducts himself,” Corker said in an interview with CNN Tuesday. “I don't think that that's possible. He's obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president.”
“None of this is normal. And what do we, as United States senators, have to say about it?” Flake said. “I have children and grandchildren to answer to and so … I will not be complicit or silent.”
Trump addressed both Senators in Wednesday morning tweets, saying they were acting “hurt & wounded.”
Trump disputed Flake's statements that many of his Republican colleagues had spoken out against the president and said they had just given him a “standing O!”
When asked by reporters whether Republican senators had been applauding something in particular at the closed-door lunch Tuesday, Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana said the reaction was “just because he was the president.”