When Arizona Republican Jeff Flake was serving in the U.S. Senate, he could be critical of President Donald Trump at times yet wasn’t a full-fledged Never Trump conservative like Washington Post columnist Max Boot, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough or GOP strategists Rick Wilson and Ana Navarro. And in an op-ed for the Washington Post, he addresses his former colleagues and urges them to “put country over party” when the time comes to serve as jurors in President Donald Trump’s Senate trial.
With Trump having been indicted on two articles of impeachment by the Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can send them to the Senate for a trial —although she is holding onto them for now over concerns that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has no intention of honestly evaluating the articles.
Flake tells Republicans he used to serve with in the Senate, “I don’t envy you…. President Trump is on trial. But in a very real sense, so are you. And so is the political party to which we belong.”
The former senator urges Senate Republicans to “remember yourself at your most idealistic.”
“We are conservatives,” Flake writes. “The political impulses that compelled us all to enter public life were defined by sturdy pillars anchored deep in the American story. Chief among these is a realistic view of power and of human nature, and a corresponding and healthy mistrust of concentrated and impervious executive power. Mindful of the base human instincts that we all possess, the founders of our constitutional system designed its very architecture to curb excesses of power.”
In his op-ed, Flake tells Senate Republicans they need to honestly evaluate the evidence — not just vote based on partisan politics — when the two articles of impeachment go to the Senate for consideration.
“My simple test for all of us: what if President Barack Obama had engaged in precisely the same behavior?,” Flake asserts. “I know the answer to that question with certainty, and so do you. You would have understood with striking clarity the threat it posed, and you would have known exactly what to do.”
The full House vote on the two articles of impeachment that Trump is facing came down along party lines: not a single Republican in the House voted to indict the president for either abuse of power or obstruction of Congress. And those House Republicans, Flake laments, didn’t even bother to look at the evidence.
Flake warns Senate Republicans, “What is indefensible is echoing House Republicans who say that the president has not done anything wrong. He has. The willingness of House Republicans to bend to the president’s will by attempting to shift blame with the promotion of bizarre and debunked conspiracy theories has been an appalling spectacle. It will have long-term ramifications for the country and the party, to say nothing of individual reputations.”
Flake’s discomfort with Trumpism was evident when, in 2018, he decided not to seek another term. And the competition for the Senate seat he was vacating became a battle between two women who had served in the U.S. House of Representatives: centrist Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally. Sinema won, making her the first Democrat to win a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona in decades and underscoring Arizona’s change from red state to swing state.
The conservative ex-senator concludes his op-ed by stressing to Senate Republicans that history will judge the GOP by their actions.
“If there ever was a time to put country over party, it is now,” Flake emphasizes. “And by putting country over party, you might just save the Grand Old Party before it’s too late.”