President Donald Trump delivered a rally speech from Phoenix Tuesday night that bashed the media, called for better border control and charged Congress to improve on health care and immigration reform.
Trump spoke for more than an hour, defending his own remarks given about the white nationalist rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville, Virginia, last week. He said the media didn’t cover his speeches well, so he went through, line-by-line, rereading what statements he gave.
Trump also spent a bulk of time complaining about the media.
Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He's toxic!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
About an hour into the speech, Trump said Congress needs to do more to reform health care and immigration, something that affects Arizona’s people directly, he said.
Trump said he didn’t want to mention any names specifically, but he did make references to Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake as two Republican senators who stalled reform.
The president said people within his inner circle told him not to mention anyone by name, though.
Trump said the United States was “one vote away” from repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, a reference to McCain’s vote that stopped repeal and replace from passing in the Senate.
Crowd chanting CNN sucks after Trump's extended anti-media rant.— Adrian Carrasquillo (@Carrasquillo) August 23, 2017
Then, Trump referenced Flake (but not by name).
"Nobody wants me to talk about your other senator — who's weak on border and weak on crime, so I won't talk about him!" Trump said.
Urges Arizona supporters to "speak to your Senator, please," in veiled reference to @SenJohnMcCain who voted against ObamaCare repeal.— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) August 23, 2017
But Trump didn’t reference either senator by name, adding “now everybody’s happy.”
Trump did reference two other Arizona congressmen, Reps. Andy Biggs and Trent Franks.
"Never let them go, folks. Never let them go," Trump said.
Neither McCain nor Flake attended the speech, The New York Times reported.
There was concern among officials Trump would directly attack Flake or McCain, given his recent strife with both politicians.
According to The New York Times, multiple GOP officials said they planned to defend Flake if Trump attacked him during the speech. Such moves have already begun. A super PAC associated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has already started bashing Flake’s midterm opponent, Kelli Ward, as a conspiracy theorist.
Trump’s reference to Flake aligned with the president’s tweets last week that called the Arizona senator “weak on borders.”
Trump bashes McCain & Flake without mentioning their names— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) August 23, 2017
Politico reported that White House officials met with challengers to Flake’s seat, including Ward. It’s been suggested Trump will spend $10 million of his own money to supporting Ward, according to Vox.
Flake has previously spoken out against Trump, too. In his recent book, “The Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle,” Flake wrote that he hoped Republicans and Americans feel free to stand up to Trump, according to Politico.
As The Atlantic reported, Flake has tried to battle Trump through decency, which has been challenging given Trump’s harsh rhetoric.
Republican leaders told The Washington Post that they hope Trump stays away from the Arizona race, since it could negatively impact Republican's control of Congress.
“There are 10 Senate Democrats up for re-election in states the president won in 2016, and that’s where his political focus and energy ought to be over the next 14 months, instead of harmful intraparty warfare,” Brian Walsh, a former communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told The Washington Post.