Jeff Flake defended his Senate colleagues Tuesday when asked about their endorsements of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
The Arizona senator, who has refused to endorse Trump, told KTAR’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes that there’s little “enthusiasm” and plenty of “fear and loathing” among his Senate colleagues regarding the Trump candidacy.
“Donald Trump did not receive a lot of – well, I guess there was one endorsement from the Senate prior to his claiming the nomination or being the presumptive nominee, just one,” the Republican senator said, as first reported by BuzzFeed News.
He was referring to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who announced his support for the mogul early in the primary process.
“It’s not as if a lot of senators were clamoring to support him during the process,” Flake said. “In fact, many had supported one of the other candidates or hadn’t supported any at all. So, there’s not a lot of enthusiasm. There’s some resignation and some mixture of fear and loathing to think about what the next couple months will bring given the statements that he has made.”
Flake has further distanced himself from Trump as the Manhattan businessman has incited a firestorm with his racially charged remarks aimed at a federal judge.
Trump has insisted that US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel cannot fairly preside over a civil case involving his for-profit real estate school, Trump University, because he is of Mexican heritage and Trump is planning on “building a wall” along the US-Mexico border. Curiel was born in Indiana.
Republicans from all sides of the party, including Flake, have publicly condemned the comments and pushed for Trump to change his tone. In a Tuesday statement, Trump took a step back from the attacks, but he did not apologize for the remarks. The real-estate magnate did not mention the controversy in his prepared post-primary address later that night.
“To have somebody from the party of Lincoln play with the identity politics that he’s been playing with, basically saying that if you are descendant of Mexican heritage that you’re disqualified to sit in judgment with someone who might disagree with your positions, it’s just wrong,” he said. “It’s just wrong.”
Flake later added he doesn’t know any fellow senator “who shares those views with Trump.”
The senator also suggested it’s wishful thinking for those who hope Trump might change in the months leading up to November’s general election.
“He turns 70 years old this week,” Flake said. “People don’t tend to change that much, positions like this, at this stage of the game. So I think it’s unlikely, I hold out that hope but I can’t see myself supporting Donald Trump at the ballot box.”
Flake said he’s not voting for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“Because it’s not just ill-informed or ignorant statements, but they suggest that once he’s president after November, that he should go after that judge,” he continued.