White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that “it’s probably a good move” that Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will not seek re-election in 2018.
Flake announced his resignation shortly before the White House press briefing in which Sanders made the comment. Flake said in a wide-ranging speech from the Senate floor: “I will not be complicit or silent.”
Sanders said she hadn’t spoken directly to Trump about Flake’s announcement, “but I think that, based on previous statements, and certainly based on the lack of support that he has from the people of Arizona, it’s probably a good move.”
A reporter asked about Flake’s remark during the speech that “It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.”
Sanders referred to both Flake and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), another senator critical of Trump who recently announced he would not seek re-election: The problem, she said, was them, not President Trump.
“I think that we support the American people on this one,” Sanders said. “I think that the people both in Tennessee and Arizona supported this President and I don’t think that the numbers are in the favor of either of those two senators in their states, and so I think that this is probably the right decision.”
“The voters of these individual senators’ states are speaking in pretty loud volumes,” she added. “I think that they were not likely to be re-elected and I think that that shows that the support is more behind this President than it is those two individuals.”
Flake told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he had “no response at all” to Sanders’ comments.
At one point during the briefing, a reporter noted Sanders had previously called Flake “petty” and asked, “What exactly of Sen. Flake’s speech did you find to be petty?”
“I thought that his attacks and a lot of the comments that he made — I don’t have a read out in front of me, but as I was watching it, I noticed a lot of the language I didn’t think was befitting of the Senate floor,” she said, moving on without responding to the reporter’s request to provide a specific example.
Flake told Tapper, responding to that criticism, that “no I don’t” think any of the language of the speech was inappropriate, and invited those who thought otherwise to inspect the text.
Limited polling out of Arizona showed Flake trailing significantly behind a Republican challenger significantly more loyal to the President, Kelli Ward, a state senator. Trump has expressed his support for Ward in the past.
This post has been updated.