When Donald Trump prepared to answer a question from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) Thursday afternoon at a closed door meeting near Capitol Hill, he wasn’t going to let Flake off the hook for being an outspoken critic of Trump’s rhetoric and tone.
“You’ve been very critical of me,” Trump said to Flake, according to a report from 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, the Post reported.
The exchange was just one of many relayed Thursday from participants in the meeting that painted a picture of a tough and tense meeting between senators trying to protect their party’s future and the Republican Party’s nominee who seems only concerned about his own poll numbers. During the same meeting, the Post reported that Trump said Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)– who has publicly opposed Trump–was a “loser.”
“He’s wrong,” Kirk, who did not attend the meeting, told reporters later on Capitol Hill. “I’ve never been defeated in Illinois. I think Trump is gonna get a vote like Alan Keyes got, which was about 28 percent.”
Flake declined to comment about his terse exchange with Trump.
“Nah. I’ll just leave it,” Flake said. “My position remains. I want to support the nominee I really do. I just can’t support him given the things that he’s said.”
The Senate GOP’s meeting with Trump followed an earlier presentation with House Republicans, which had left some very skeptical of the party’s nominee. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) recounted that Trump had actually promised to defend the the 12th Article of the Constitution during the meeting, which does not actually exist.
The meeting Thursday was a rare moment for senators to see a more personal side of Trump, who has given many of them heartburn over the last few months. But some lawmakers appeared frustrated that the headlines coming out of the meeting weren’t about the discussions on tax policy or health care, but instead the tense exchanges with a few Republican senators.
“Well … you know things end up always being memorable,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said.
Other Republicans rejected the presumption that the meeting with Trump had been anything other than cordial.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said that he thought Trump’s pointed comments about Kirk and Flake had been little more than an attempt to grow party unity.
“I think in a way though that was designed to say that the only way this works and the only way we all succeed is if we’re all on the same team, we’re all pulling together,” Thune said. He later added, “It was a frank discussion. … It is the kind of discussion you have inside the family.”
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) tried to play down the tense exchanges in the meeting, telling reporters that for 50 minutes of it there were intense policy discussions.
“It was a pretty relaxed meeting,” Lankford said.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said that Trump reacted appropriately.
“Well, I know he’s not particularly happy with some of the criticism he’s received, but that’s fairly normal,” Cornyn said. “I actually thought there was some good exchanges in our meeting between some of our people who have been critics.”