In it, but not of it. TPM DC

There's no official Sen. Ted Cruz presidential team — yet. But the Texas Republican is already surrounding himself with key strategists and advisers that could make his transparent White House ambitions a reality.

The tea party firebrand relies on a small circle of advisers to inform his views and amplify his ultraconservative message. The inner circle breaks down into two groups: his chief advisers in the Senate office, and the chiefs of his nationally-focused political operation, which he beefed up in the summer of 2014 by hiring a crop of seasoned Republican campaign operatives.

These are the key players that could shape Cruz's presidential ambitions.

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Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said Wednesday that Congress should not risk a government shutdown to stop President Barack Obama's executive actions, and should instead respond by passing immigration reform.

"I hope we respond with legislation," he told a few reporters just off the Senate floor. "I hope we pass legislation."

Immigration reform legislation?

"Yes. That's what we should have done before," said Flake, who co-wrote and voted for the Senate-passed immigration reform bill in 2013, which was nixed by House Republicans.

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