President Donald Trump hit back at critics within his own Republican party Wednesday, painting them as outliers in what is otherwise a “love fest” between him and allied lawmakers.
A day after Republican senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker described Trump as having a “flagrant disregard” for truth and decency and of “debasing” the nation, the combative president shot back.
Trying to forestall a wider party backlash, Trump said Flake and Corker had decided to resign from politics because they could not be reelected.
“The reason Flake and Corker dropped out of the Senate race is very simple, they had zero chance of being elected. Now act so hurt & wounded!” Trump tweeted.
“Jeff Flake, with an 18% approval rating in Arizona, said ‘a lot of my colleagues have spoken out.’ Really, they just gave me a standing O!” Trump said, hours after meeting Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“The meeting with Republican Senators yesterday, outside of Flake and Corker, was a love fest with standing ovations and great ideas for USA!” he continued.
Many Republicans privately express grave misgivings about Trump’s behaviour in office, but remain publicly supportive.
They see his presidency as the best way to enact long-standing party goals like tax reform and cutting the size of government.
The White House has worked hard to keep the party rank and file focused on those targets.
“Working hard on the biggest tax cut in U.S. history. Great support from so many sides. Big winners will be the middle class, business & JOBS,” Trump also tweeted Wednesday.
But Trump’s ascendency has also led to a battle for the soul of the Republican party, with establishment conservatives struggling to stop an insurgency from the more populist and nationalist wing of the party.