Outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) went after the president in a speech delivered on the Senate floor Wednesday morning. While making a comparison to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, Flake denounced President Donald J. Trump for attacking the news media.
Flake, who was caught on an open mic saying the Republicans under Donald Trump “are toast,” had pre-planned his offensive remarks to include the reference to Stalin. His intention to condemn the White House for its “unrelenting daily assault on the constitutionally-protected free press” by making the comparison was reported on Monday.
ABC News reports: Flake pointed to the Soviet Union’s 30-year dictator as seeming inspiration for Trump’s attacks against the press, singling out a phrase that each used to refer to their interpreted opposition.
“It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies,” Flake said. “It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.”
Flake characterized the president’s attacks as “shameful” and “repulsive” Wednesday and accused him of inspiring autocratic leaders throughout the world — citing denials of news reports by heads-of-state in Syria, the Philippines, Venezuela, Myanmar and Singapore.
“This feedback loop is disgraceful, Mr. President,” said Flake, addressing Trump. “Not only has the past year seen an American president borrow despotic language to refer to the free press, but it seems he has in turn inspired dictators and authoritarians with his own language. This is reprehensible.”
The speech was the senator’s second such address targeting Trump from the Senate floor in the last three months. In October, Flake passionately decried what he called the “regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals” under the president as he announced that he would not seek re-election in 2018. An emotional Flake said at the time: “We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country,” including “the flagrant disregard for truth and decency.”
Despite his impending retirement, the senator called for the new year to be empowered with opposition to the ongoing assault against the truth.
Flake concluded his speech by calling on his Senate colleagues — whom he acknowledged have all likely faced news coverage they “felt was jaded or unfair” — to “stop excusing, ignoring — or worse, endorsing — these attacks on the truth.”
“For if we compromise the truth for the sake of our politics, we are lost,” he said.
Earlier this month, Flake’s plan to save DACA was thwarted by the president. Flake and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that the lauded bipartisan “Gang of Six” senators had locked down an agreement amongst themselves, which included a border security package.
“We’ve got this bipartisan group. We are at a deal. … It’s the only game in town,” Flake told reporters. But President Trump did not agree to the bill, saying it was not a good deal for American citizens.