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tv   CNN Newsroom With Brooke Baldwin  CNN  October 24, 2017 12:00pm-1:00pm PDT

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here we go, top of the hour, i'm brooke baldwin. a major development in the republican civil war. we can now report that arizona senator jeff flake says he will not seek re-election.
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mark preston is up live with me now. mark preston, why? >> well, when it came to the issue of immigration, senator flake represents a state along the border and him and as well as senator john mccain did not agree with donald trump's vision of building a wall and others that he was trying to crack down when it came to immigration. now, we should say this about jeff flake. a long-time member of the house, first elected back in 2000, this was his first term. he was elected to the senate in 2012, somebody who was a conservative conscience of the senate, in many ways, tried to stay true to his conservative beliefs but you have to wonder at this point, brooke, has he had enough? and we've seen that with bob corker, that he was going to
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step down after two terms. and could there be a door opening where they decide to leave the chamber or even across the capital in the house of representatives where we've seen republicans not seek re-election in 2018. phil mattingly is with me and covers capitol hill each and every day. very critical of the president? >> yes. he was looking at a state where democrats got a top tier candidate to run against him and also serious primary challenges have been coming up there. steve bannon, the former chief
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strategist of the white house has been eyeing candidates down there, kelly ward being one of them, an individual who lost to senator john mccain in the election. so there were difficulties on the political side of things. arizona has been changing quite a bit over the years. democrats thought that was a potential pickup opportunity before this occurred. we were the one who is broke the news to chuck schumer when he was doing this press conference just now. he didn't say anything. he just stopped, stared at the cameras and had a semishocked look on his face. if you want to talk about jeff flake and i think what mark was saying was extremely relevant and extremely key on everything right now, what he's done over the last seven, eight, nine months, he's been unequivocal about his views about the president and where he stands on policy issues and i think the thing most surprising, perhaps for some people, on his policy views, on his ideological views, there are few people who are as
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conservative as senator jeff flake but he's bucked verbally what the president has said and proposed, the president's policies and viewpoint just kind of almost on everything right now and his decision to leave makes clear there will be another republican in the u.s. senate who doesn't owe anything to anybody, isn't concerned about re-election and is now a free agent and can do whatever he wants to do moving forward, brooke. >> >> we were just talking about senator corker and post-charlottesville criticizing the president and now senator jeff flake. is this an inflection point now? >> it could be. you could say the writing is on the wall. we've seen these two feuding, the president and senator flake, over the past few months now. senator flake said he couldn't
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in good conscience remain in the republican party and just like the president and senator corker and exchanging words via twitter. the president went to a rally in phoenix where his entire staff was begging him, begging him, please, including a member of mitch mcconnell said do not invoke senator flake and do not talk negative about him. and whether or not he's going to see the vocal critics of this president to say they can no longer remain in this party and won't seek re-election and that means we have more than a year to hear from some of them and these are very powerful senators. >> these are powerful senators, mark preston, or gloria borger joining us as well here on the news. what does this tell you? i guess the list so far isn't
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too long but it's now a list of these establishment republicans who are, for lack of a better term, you know, bowing out as they have a scathing criticism of the president of the united states. >> here he is. forgive me. let's listen. >> at a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord than by our own values and principles, let me note an obvious point that these offices that we hold are not ours indefinitely. we are not here tim plea to mark time. sustained incumbency is not the point of seeking office and there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. now is such a time. i rise today with no small measure of regret. regret because of the state of our disunion, regret because of
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the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics. regret because of the indecency of our discourse and the courseness of our leadership and for the compromise of our moral authorities and complicity and unacceptable to end and in this century, a new phrase to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order, that phrase being the new normal. that we must never adjust to the courseness of our dialogue with the tone set up at the top and never regard as normal the regular and ideals, we must never accept the deadly
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sundering of our country. the personal attacks, threats against principles freedoms and institutions and flagrant disregard for decency and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve. none of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. we must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that is just the way things are now. if we simply become enamored to this condition thinking that it's just politics as usual, then heaven help us. without fear of the consequences and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palate table, that some
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in our executive branch are normal. they are not normal. reckless, outrageous and undignified undignified behavior has become excused as telling it like it is when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified. and when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else. it is dangerous to a democracy. such behavior does not project strength because our strength comes from our values. it, instead, project as corruption of the spirit and weakness. it is often said that children are watching. well, they are. and what are we going to do about that? when the next generation asks us, why didn't you do something? why didn't you speak up?
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what are we going to say? mr. president, i rise today to say, enough. we must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalies never becomes the normal with respect and humility i must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. we know better than that. by now, we all know better than that. here today i stand to say that we would be better served, we would better serve the country by better fulfilling our obligations under the constitution by adhering to our article 1 old normal, mr. madison's separation of powers. this genius affirmation which was argued held that the equal branches of our government would
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balance and counteract with each other, if necessary. ambition counteracts ambition, he wrote. but what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition and civility asserts itself in the face of chaos and instability and dean tdecency fails to call out decency. would we accept such display from dominant democrats? of course we wouldn't and we would be wrong if we did. when we remain silent and fail to act, when we know that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad
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nauseam, when there should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of our institutions and our liberty, we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. those things are far more important than politics. now, i'm aware that there's a segment of my party that believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect. if i have been critical, it is not because i relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the united states. if i have been critical, it is because i believe it is my obligation to do so and as a matter of duty and conscience, the notion that one should stay
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silent and as the norms and values that keep america strong are undermined and as alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters, the notion that we should say or do nothing in the face of such mecurial behavior is ahistoric and profoundly misguided. a president, a republican president named roosevelt had this to say about the president and a citizen's relationship to the office. "the president is the most important among a large number of public servants and a degree warranted by his good or bad conduct, efficiently or unefficiency in disinterested service to the nation as a whole. he continued, therefore, it's
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absolutely necessary that there should be a full liberty to tell the truth about his acts and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. any other attitude is both base and servile. president roosevelt continued, "to announce that there be no criticism of a president or stand by a president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile but is morally treasonable to the public." loyalty to conscience and principles should supercede loyalty to any man or party. we can all be forgiven for failing in that measure from time to time. i certainly put myself at the top of the list of those who fall short in this regard.
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i am holier than none. but too often we rush to salvage principle not to salvage principle but to forgive and excuse our failures so that we might accommodate them and go right on failing until the accommodation itself becomes our principle. in that way and over time, we can justify almost any behavior and sacrifice any principle. i am afraid that this is where we now find ourselves. when a leader recognizes new hurt and goes to look for someone to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a society. leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to look somewhat closer to home. leadership knows where the buck stops. humility helps, character counts. leadership does not
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encouragingly feed debase appetites in us and leadership lives by the american creed. and american leadership looks to the world and just as lincoln did, sees the family of man, humanity is not a zero sum game. when we have been at our most prosperous, we have been at our most principled and when we do well, the rest of the world does well. these recalls of civic faith have been critical to the american identity as long as we have been alive. they are our birthright and obligation. we must guard them jealously and pass them on for as long as the calendar has days. to betray them or to be unserious in their defense is a betrayal of the fundamental obligations of american leadership and to behave as if they don't matter is simply not
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who we are. now the efficacy of american leadership around the globe has come into question. when the united states emerged from the world war ii, it would have been easy to secure our dominance keeping those countries who had been defeated or greatly weakened in the war in their place. we didn't do that. it would have been easy to focus inward. we resisted those impulses. instead, shattered countries and created international organizations and institutions that have helped provide security and foster prosperity around the world for more than 70 years. now it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity are the ones most eager to abandon it. the implications of this
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abandonment are profound and the beneficiaries of this rather radical departure in the american approach to the world are the ideological enemies of our values. despotism loves a vacuum and our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. why are they doing this? none of this is normal? and what do we, as united states senators, have to say about it? the principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding are too vital to our identity and survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics because politics can make us silent when we should speak and silence can equal complic equal complicity. so, mr. president, i will not be complicit or silent. i've decided to better represent
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the people of arizona and to better serve my country and conscience by freeing myself of the political consideration that consumed far too much bandwidth and cause me to compromise too many principles. to that end, i'm announcing today that my service in the senate will conclude in early january 2019. it is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative, who believes in limited government and free markets, devoted to free trade, pro immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the republican party. the party that has so long cared to find itself by the belief in those things and it's clear to me for the moment that we have given in or given up on the core principles in favor of a more
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advi viscerally anger and the moral mess that we've created are justified but anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy. there is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal by mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle -- the impulse to scapegoat threatens to turn us into a fearful and backward looking people. in the case of the republican party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward looking minority party. we were not made great as a country by indulging in or exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorifying in the things that divide us and calling fake things true and true things fake. and we did not become the beacon
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of freedom by clouding our institutions and failing to understand just how hard and vulnerable they are. this spell will eventually break. that is my belief. we will return to ourselves once more and i say the sooner the better. because we have a healthy government, we must also have healthy and functioning parties. we must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, commity and good faith. we must argue our positions fervently and never be afraid to compromise. we must assume the best of our fellow man and always look for the good. until that day comes, we must be unafraid to speak out as if our country depends on it, because it does. i plan to spend the remaining 14 months of my senate term doing
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just that. mr. president, the graveyard is full of indispensable men and women. none of us here is indispensable nor were even the great history to shape the country that we've inherited. what is indispensable are the values that they cons crated in philadelphia and in this place, values which will endure for so long as men and women wish to remain free. what is indispensable is what we do here in defense of those values. a political career does not mean much if we are complicit in undermining these values. i thank my colleagues for indulging me here today. i will close by borrowing the words of president lincoln who knew more about preserving our founding values than any american who has ever lived. his words from his first
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inaugural were from a prayer of his time and now no less in ours. we are not enemies but friends, we must not be enemies though passion may have strained, it must not break the bonds of our affection. the mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched as surely they will be by the better angels of our nature. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. >> majority leader? >> mr. president, colleagues, we regret to hear that our friend from arizona will conclude his senate service at the end of this six-year term. and i'd like to say, mr. president, on behalf of myself
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and i think many of my colleagues, we've just witnessed a speech from a very fine man, a man who clearly brings high principles to the office every day and does what he believes is in the interest of arizona and the country. i'm grateful that senator from arizona will be here for another year and a half. we have big things to try to accomplish for the american people. but from my perspective, the senator of arizona has been a team player, always trying to get a constructive outcome no matter the issue before us. so i thank the senator from arizona for his service, which will continue, thankfully, for another year and a half and for the opportunity to listen to his remarks today.
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>> mr. president? >> senior senator from arizona? >> mr. president, it's very hard for me to add to the eloquence of my friend and my dear friend from arizona. but i do want to say that it's been one of the great honors of my life to have the opportunity to serve with a man of integrity, honor and decency and commitment to not only arizona but the united states of america. i have seen jeff flake stand up for what he believes in knowing full well that there would be a political price to pay. i have seen him stand up for his family. i've seen him stand up for his forbearers. in fact, there's a place called
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snowflake, arizona, and obviously that flake part comes from his direct predecessor. it's the flake family and families like them that came and worked and slaved and raised families and made arizona what it is. and it has never had a more deserving son than jeff flake and his beautiful wife cheryl and children. so i would just like to say, jeff, i've known you now for a number of years. i know you have served arizona and the country and there's one thing that i'm sure of, you will continue that service and it's part of your family and it's part of your view of america and it's part of your willingness and desire to serve arizona and one of the great privileges of my life has been to have the opportunity to know you and serve with you.
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so, as we look all of us at some point in our time that we have spent here, whether it be short or whether it be long, we look back and we think about what we could have done, what we should have done, what we might have done and the mistakes we made and the things we're proud of. well, when the flake service to this country in this country is reviewed, it will be one of honor, of brilliance and patriotism and love of country and i thank you and god bless you and your family. >> mr. president? >> majority leader?
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>> all post -- >> we have all just now witnessed an extraordinary moment in american politics. a sitting republican senator saying he will not seek re-election, citing the republican president's actions and behavior in a blistering speech on the senate floor just now we heard from arizona senator jeff flake calling the president d president's adjective, he will not be complicit. >> many of us suspected that he wasn't going to run for re-election. he was the most endangered republican in the senate but the length to which he went to explain why he's leaving and not
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only critical of the president, i might ad, but critical of the senate, saying that we are all complicit in this if it we do not point it out and we do not say that this is not normal. and he was saying we can never adjust to this kind of courseness of our dialogue, the tone is set at the top and we are complicit if we do. and i, for one -- and i've covered politics for a long time. it's hard to remember a speech that is as honest and kind of laid bear the underlying issues of our politics of the time that we're living through than a speech like this. >> mark preston? >> you know, in this day and age, sometimes we have to take a pause and just really take in what we just saw. brooke, you called it
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extraordinary. i call it historic. this is the type of speech tomorrow that should be shown, should be listened to by every high school civics class, politics class, history class. the reason being, we're at a moment in time right now where there's so much divisiveness in the country, so much divisiveness amongst our own receives, so much divisiveness within each political party that something has to break. jeff flake just said he decided he couldn't do it anymore. he had to step out and i do think that this is a moment right now and a very big moment for our country, given everything that has happened, to stop, think about what direction we're going in and try to readjust our course. >> manu? >> yeah, this is a bombshell in the senate. no question about it. members from both parties stunned and even disappointed on the way in to the speech, brooke, i caught up with chris coons, a democrat from delaware.
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he choked up for a moment. he almost broke down in tears with jeff flake because they've developed a close, personal relationship. he's called flake a constructive member of the republican party, somebody who likes to try to figure out a way to solve problems in a bipartisan basis and said that if senators like flake cannot run for re-election and cannot serve in this body anymore, then the senate will be worse off, according to the words of chris coons, a democrat, talking about a republican retiring. that is a sentiment that's really felt by republicans as well and you heard from mitch mcconnell afterwards while mcconnell does not voice the same frustration publicly with president trump, he does have a lot of affection for senator flake because of the way he's conducted himself in the senate as someone who has tried to deal amicably with his members. this will have a huge effect on
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the race for the majority. congress c ichinema and kelly w may try to seek that seat as well because republicans are worried that ward would not be able to win in a general election as well and flake alluding to the fact that he would have a hard time winning the primary the way the politics are shifting nationally and in his state, supporting immigration, supporting trade, making it difficult for republicans like him to win showing how much the party has shifted but also a major impact here in the senate as well, brook. >> sure. could open the door for a democrat to pick that up on this speech. biana, what did you think? >> i agree with gloria and manu. i can't help but think that the president feels emboldened. the president has publicly warred against these two senators that are now not
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seeking re-election. i think the president is going to feel more emboldened and talk about the stock market hitting a new high and then you have no legislation and i don't see how you get tax reform moving on news like this today. the temperature in the room, just the emotion that you saw from mitch mcconnell who you never see him emotional and i do think a lot of pressure now turns to the house speaker. i think paul ryan -- there's going to be a lot of pressure on him. there's been people asking when are you going to say something beyond "i don't respond to tweets" and this may be the moment. when do you put legislation versus a real divide in your own party. >> doug hyde, you just sat down and said i was just last night e-mailing with the chief coms
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guy or gal -- >> guys. >> -- in senator flake's office asking about the race in arizona and no mention from this. >> no. one, his internals had him down double digits to kelly ward and concern that republicans will have about how to keep this seat. i was communications director at the rnc in 2010 when christine o'donnell was elected. we nominated sharon engle in nevada. we lost that seat. we've seen todd akin, richard murdoch. if republicans had nominated good republicans to win that race, we would have repealed obamacare by now and we would have done tax reform by now. this is the problem that republicans are facing and from donald trumps initial four-way into the race, if you were going back a year ago, i thought mom and dad having the fight in front of the kids with ted cruz and rand paul over here and jeb
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bush and marco rubio over here, donald trump came in and caused a 17, 18-person food fight. >> listening to all of this and, gloria, back over to you, i printed out the seven-page speech that presumably the senator himself wrote. put this in perspective for me. this came today literally hours after republican senator bob corker went after the president as well. >> right. and after a senate meeting with the president of the united states where you saw a group of men coming out and saying, you know, we had a productive meeting with the president. they didn't touch upon what happened with senator corker. they touched upon the legislation they want to pass which was tax reform. senator flake said, stop this.
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this is enough. the line where he said, i must say we have filed ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. we know better than that. by now, we all know better than that. and what he's saying to the senators is, it's not going to happen. you know, you're putting yourselves on the same side of donald trump but understand that in doing so you've become complicit to all of the issues he said were demoralizing and demeaning to our values and the way republicans regard governing. and so i think his appeal was not only explaining why he didn't want to do it anymore and feels out of step with his own party, but he was also making an appeal to his own republicans. and when mitch mcconnell stood up as you guys were talking about and gave that emotional,
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for mitch mcconnell, speech to flake, i thought to myself, mcconnell knows exactly what he's talking about and probably agrees with him and find myself that there's not much that he's going to do about it. and that's the problem. >> bianna made a good point, this could embolden the president. this is from our white house strategist. steve bannon said this. the quote is this. "today, steve bannon added another scalp to his collection as another establishment domino falls. another scalp mark." >> right. terminology being used in this day and age, as he said, we
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should not look at the new normal, language like that has become the new normal. i think as a father -- i believe he has five children. as a father, you've got to wonder what senator flake has been thinking this whole time. we know he wrote a book and he was very critical of president trump but this isn't about politics. we have not discussed a fight between republicans and democrats. the only thing we heard when it came to issues is that the traditional conservative has a narrower path to victory. that's all we've heard about politics. when people see us talking about senator flake, the walkaway should not be, oh, listen, they are just against donald trump. that's not the case. the case is that senator flake eloquently laid out there in very simple terms is that the conduct in office is not acceptable and we should not accept it. >> keep in mind, also, that we are minutes away from this white
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house press briefing. we thought today was a huge day with this back and forth over twitter and on tv between the president and senator corker. now you have this historic speech from senator flake. how do you think sanders will discuss this? >> i was in so many meetings where you would have republicans stand up and say we need to fight more and we didn't hear offers for solutions and if you spend your time in washington in new york and you want to find solutions and answers and want to see that you're putting it to the democrats that you're investigating hurricane, i was in north carolina last week. i've heard more republicans talk
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about the need to investigate hillary clinton than anything about donald trump. >> let's hit pause for a second and hold that thought. quick break. we're waiting for this white house briefing to begin any moment now. historic times in this country. we'll be right back. he's brought us to the brink of nuclear war.
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obstructed justice at the fbi. and in direct violation of the constitution, he's taken money from foreign governments and threatened to shut down news organizations that report the truth. if that isn't a case for impeaching and removing a dangerous president, then what has our government become? i'm tom steyer and, like you, i'm a citizen who knows it's up to us to do something. it's why i'm funding this effort to raise our voices together and demand that elected officials take a stand on impeachment. a republican congress once impeached a president for far less. yet, today, people in congress and his own administration know this president is a clear and present danger who is mentally unstable and armed with nuclear weapons. and they do nothing. join us and tell your
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member of congress that they have a moral responsibility to stop doing what's political and start doing what's right. our country depends on it. to find smarter solutions.
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to offer more precise and less invasive treatment options than before. like advanced genomic testing and immunotherapy. see how we're fighting to outsmart cancer at cancercenter.com/outsmart we are back here live on cnn. we just saw arizona republican senator jeff flake announcing to the world that he will not seek re-election at the end of his term on january 2019 and essentially in a blistering critique of the executive branch and, specifically, of president trump. so we have news from caitlan
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collins, our reporter at the white house. we have jeff zeleny there standing by in the briefing room to see how the white house reacts to this stunning news. but caitlan, first to you, you have heard from a friend of steve bannon. what did they share? >> steve bannon's world is very news with this news that senator flake is not going to run for re-election in 2018. he said that today steve bannon added another scalp to his collection as another establishment domino falls. since steve bannon left the white house, he's been targeting some of these establishment candidates and promising to primary them. these candidates up for re-election who could be down in their home states. one of those we saw most recently was that alabama senate primary race between luther
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strange and roy moore. as you know, the president had endorsed luther strange and even came down to alabama to campaign for him at a rally, but steve bannon, that former white house chief strategist, who we know speaks to the president on a semiregular basis had endorsed roy moore. he was the controversial candidate who had been kicked off the state bench in alabama twice. once for refusing to uphold a supreme court law that made gay marriage legal. so a very controversial candidate that steve bannon was on the side there and promising to primary senator jeff flake if he ran for re-election. they are counting this a win in their book, brooke. >> jeff zeleny, to you, if this emboldens the senator or they try to spin this in their favor, he will not like the fact that steve bannon allies are taking
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credit for it? >> well, sure. and i think if you take a broader view of this, brooke, the challenge for a state like arizona, it is indeed on the verge, if it's not already, a swing state, essentially. just the demographics of that state. so the big question here is will the republican majority hold. of course, there's a long ways between here and november 2018 but there's no question at all that democrats also see this as a potential boom for them. and this raises keep questions of the president's tax plan and to revive one more hope for a legislative accomplishment this year. so the question is, how much does all of this complicate that? and that in terms of the president's legacy, in terms of what he's hoping to achieve with any type of a legislation is the central issue here. it was a stinging rebuke and i think that the white house, you know, will probably dismiss
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that. there's no question that they are hardly fast friends or close allies but the question is will there be a continuing of dominos falling. if you take together what's really happened in the last several hours, the president has been involved in extraordinary exchange with the -- essential h ly the elder states man. how long can that be sustained? and this is something that is happening in realtime, unfolding in realtime and we'll see how this impacts the midterms because it certainly will, brooke. >> we will see how the white house responds in the more immediate. we're standing by for that briefing. you're in the room, my friend. quick break. live pictures. we're waiting. be right back.
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want to trade places, i'll let you come up here and i'll ask questions. no? all right. i thought it was worth a shot. afternoon. all right. president trump had a productive meeting at today's republican senate caucus. the president discussed the urgent need for the senate to focus on cutting taxes for hard
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working american families. we must also make american companies more competitive so they can create more jobs and boost wages for american workers. and we must simplify the burdensome tax code that is currently rigged in favor of the wealthy and well-connected. as the president tweeted this morning, the markets continue to hit historic highs and unemployment is at a 16-year low. there is a spirit of economic optimism sweeping the nation, but our economy cannot take off like it should unless we deliver historic tax cuts and reforms. this is the president's top legislative priority and he was encouraged today by the show of unity by republicans on the hill about getting this done. during the policy lunch, the president also discussed the urgent need for the senate to confirm his slate of imminently qualified nominees. in spite of democratic obstruction so that they can get to work on behalf of the american people. the president will continue to work closely with the senate to deliver on a legislative agenda that puts the interests of the american people first.
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this morning, president welcomed winners of the minority enterprise development week awards. this awards program is designed to celebrate the outstanding achievements of minority entrepreneurs as well as individuals and organizations that are leading the way in advancing minority business enterprise. the award winners who visited the white house certainly meet that criteria and the president was proud to host them. he's laser-focused on building an economy that works for all americans in delivering tax cuts and reforms for these hardworking entrepreneurs by the end of the year. on the national security and foreign policy front, for the eighth time, russia has blocked u.n. security council action to hold accountable those who use chemical weapons, including terrorists in the assad regime. by blocking the extension of the joint investigative mechanism, russia has once again demonstrated it does not care about stopping the barbaric use of chemical weapons in the world and will do whatever it takes to protect its ally, the assad regime.
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blocking the extension of the investigating authority means nothing less than russia's endorsement of the assad regime's use of chemical weapons against innocent women and children. we will continue to push back against this. and with that, i'll take your questions. >> sarah? president trump previously tweeted that jeff flake is a very weak and ineffective senator. do you know if he has any reaction to flake announcing he won't seek re-election? >> i haven't spoken with him directly since the announcement by senator flake, but i think that based on previous statements and certainly based on the lack of support that he has from the people of arizona, it's probably a good move. matthew? >> thanks, sarah. so we have two republicans senator now just today, senators corker and flake, calling the president's behavior unacceptable and dangerous, saying that he regularly tells untruths. senator flake just called on his
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fellow republicans to end what he called complicity and accommodation. i'm wondering what is the white house's response to this criticism coming from two republican senators? >> i think that we support the american people on this one. think that the people both in tennessee and arizona supported this president and i don't think that the numbers are in the favor of either of those two senators in their states, and so i think that this is probably the right decision. >> thank you, sarah. earlier you -- >> sarah, why is the president involved in this few with senator corker? is there some concern on capitol hill that what you should be focused on is getting your agenda of tax reform through and that petty feuds like this just distract from the bigger issues. so why is the president engaging in this? >> look, the president is focused on doing this. that's what he spent the majority of his day talking about. he went to the hill and met with republican senators to talk about tax reform, to push his legislative agenda. that's what he's spending a good
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bit of this week doing and will continue doing next week until we get the job done. >> but why does he engage like this? >> look, you've got an individual in the president, he's a fighter. we've said it many times before. the people of this country didn't elect somebody to be weak, they elected somebody to be strong, and when he gets hit, he's going to hit back, and i think senator corker knows that and he, you know, maybe trying to get a headline or two on his way out the door. >> thanks a lot, sarah. since the president's taken office, as you know, two republican senators, senator corker of tennessee and senator flake of arizona, have both announced they're not running for re-election. in your view, is the president remaking the republican party? and if he's doing that, is he remaking it in a positive way? >> i wouldn't say necessarily he's remaking it because you have a couple of individuals that are no longer running for office. look, he's got a great relationship with a number of republican senators. he's going to continue working
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with them and make sure that we get things done for the american people. he wants people to be in the senate that are committed to actually moving the ball down the field and i don't think these two individuals necessarily have been as focused on that. the president wants to get things done and that's what we're going to work through through the fall. sean? >> sarah, i understand neither of these senators we've been talking about now are allies to the president, but this has been an extraordinary series of attacks on the president from major figures in the republican party, not typical political attacks. saying that the president is responsible for the debasement of the nation. that a breakdown of civility is the fault of the president's and that enough is enough. we've seen similar remarks from john mccain, the party's former nominee. in any of this -- does any of this make the president pause and wonder if he is doing anything wrong? if he bears any responsibility for what she's senators are
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saying is a breakdown of civility in our country. >> look, i think the voters of these individual senators' states are speaking in pretty loud volumes. i think that they were not likely to be re-elected and i think that that shows that the support is more behind this president than it is those two individuals. >> why is there so little pushback from other republican senators on this? i mean, mitch mcconnell is the republican leader, bob corker's still a committee chairman -- >> look, leader mcconnell stood with the president just last week here at the white house and talked about how they were working together, how they were getting things done, how they were focused on actually moving the agenda forward, soifr i thi that's a pretty clear indication of where his support lies and what we're trying to do. >> one of the criticisms from senator corker today was the idea that history will most remember president trump for debasing the country. and you could hear in senator flake's remarks the idea that he seemed to be -- how do you think
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history will view not only the remarks of the two senators today, but also former president bush last week -- >> i certainly think history is going to look at this president as somebody who helped defeat isis, who built an economy that is stronger than it's been in several decades, who brought unemployment to a 16-year low, created over 1.7 million jobs since being elected. i think those are the things that people actually care about, not some petty comments from senator corker and senator flake, and i think they're a lot more concerned about the big policy initiatives this president is driving, including his historic tax cuts which we're going to get done by the end of this year and start focussing on other things. those are the things this president will be remembered by, and i think those are certainly good facts and ones that we're happy to stand by. peter? >> thank you, sarah. the president at lunch today asked senators for their -- a show of hands on two candidates for fed chair. does this mean that they are the president's favorites for the
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fed chairman pick? what would he ask input from the senate on this? >> those are certainly individuals he's looking at. as we said, we don't have announcements on that at this time, but the president is taking that decision extremely seriously and he's being very thorough in the process and will have an announcement on it soon. >> sarah? >> sarah, is the white house concerned at all that these conflicts which keep escalating could impact the president's agenda? specifically could, for example, senator corker if the president continues to lash out at him like this, could that prompt him to, you know, do things that would be detrimental to the tax plan. >> i would hope senator corker is more focused on getting things done in his final months, and so we hope that he'll be very supportive of the tax cuts and tax reforms that the people in his state have demanded and frankly elected him to go to congress and help do. >> to follow up on that, because the president in two different tweets today said that senator w