WASHINGTON - As he often says, Donald Trump likes people who like him, and doesn’t like people who don’t. Jeff Flake, the junior senator from Arizona, doesn’t like him, and so Donald Trump does not like Jeff Flake.
The dynamic made for a predictably entertaining back and forth Thursday, when Trump and Senate Republicans met at a gathering intended to build party unity.
“You’ve been very critical of me,” Trump observed when Flake introduced himself, according to the Washington Post.
“Yes, I’m the other senator from Arizona ― the one who didn’t get captured ― and I want to talk to you about statements like that,” Flake said, referencing Trump’s criticisms of Sen. John McCain.
Privately and publicly, Flake has made no secret of his concern that Trump is taking the GOP in a dangerous direction, and that his anti-Latino rhetoric will cost the party a generation of voters.
Trump, however, warned that it was Flake who was on the wrong side of the issue, and threatened to make him lose his coming election this fall, the Post reported. Flake pointed out one small problem with that analysis: he’s not up for re-election until 2018.
Flake wasn’t the only one who had an odd interaction with Trump. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who had been floated by the #NeverTrump movement as a potential challenger, left the meeting early without commenting to reporters. Politico reported, however, that Trump bluntly told Sasse, “You must want Hillary.”
James Wegmann, Sasse’s spokesman, said that the senator was no more optimistic about the election after the meeting than he was before. “Senator Sasse went to today’s meeting ready to listen. Senator Sasse introduced himself to Mr. Trump and the two had a gracious exchange,” Wegmann said. “Mr. Sasse continues to believe that our country is in a bad place and, with these two candidates, this election remains a dumpster fire. Nothing has changed.”