Republican Senators Dump on Trump
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Republican Senators Dump on Trump

Flake and Corker, Both Retiring, Unload on ‘Reckless, Undignified’ President

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

Dump on Trump. Reckless, outrageous and undignified. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said he “will no longer be complicit or silent” in the face of Trump’s “reckless, outrageous and undignified” behavior. Flake challenged Trump and Republican leadership in a 17-minute speech on the Senate floor. He will not seek re-election in 2018.

“We must stop pretending that the conduct of some in our executive branch is normal,” Flake said. “They are not normal.” Trump’s views are increasingly the views of Republican voters. The Republicans embrace Trump’s combative, America-first tendencies. Flake told the Arizona Republic that “there may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican party.”

Meanwhile, Trump and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) renewed their public feud.  Corker said Trump is “debasing” the country with his “untruths,” “name-calling” and “attempted bullying.” Trump tweeted: Corker “couldn’t get elected dogcatcher in Tennessee.” Corker will not be running for re-election next year.

Both Flake and Corker are considered vital to Republican plans to cut taxes for wealthy Americans, and some see their Trump criticism as jeopardizing the effort.

Hometown connections. A Democratic congressman called for an investigation into a $300 million contract awarded to a small company based in the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority awarded the contract to Whitefish Energy Holdings to help crews restore transmission and distribution lines. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said Congress “needs to understand why the Whitefish contract was awarded and whether other, more cost-effective options were available.” Zinke is from Whitefish, Mont., where the company is based. The Interior Department denied that Zinke, a former Montana congressman, played any role in awarding the contract, the biggest issued so far in the relief effort. The company had just two full-time employees when Maria made landfall.

Pentagon Arms Deals

The Department of Defense announced a slew of potential deals totaling almost $17.5 billion to sell arms and missile defense equipment to four countries.

The biggest deal involves selling 44 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense Launchers (THAAD) and 360 THAAD interceptor missiles for $15 billion to Saudi Arabia. That proposed sale involves the Army, National Security Agency and Missile Defense Agency.

The next biggest deal is a $1.25 billion sale by the Army of high mobility artillery rocket systems and support equipment to NATO ally Romania.

The Pentagon announced two separate potential deals to Australia: An $815 million potential sale of nearly 4,000 air-to-ground bombs by the Air Force, and a $360 million sale on a 10-year upgrade package on 24 multi-mission helicopters by the Navy. Finally, Japan has proposed to pay $113 million to the Air Force for 56 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles.

—Jillian S. Ambroz

Desert drilling. The Bureau of Land Management reversed its position to say that Cadiz Inc. could run a 43-mile pipeline for a proposed desert water project in an existing railroad right-of-way. Cadiz plans to pump groundwater from the desert 200 miles east of Los Angeles. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and public land advocates say this could deplete the aquifer and harm wilderness areas. Former lobbyist David Bernhardt, now the deputy secretary of the Interior Department, worked for a law firm that lobbied for the Cadiz project. Opponents are likely to challenge the BLM decision in court, and the California lands commission recently told Cadiz it will need a lease from the state because the right-of-way crosses a 200-foot-wide strip of state land.

Featured image: CSPAN video grab of Sen. Jeff Flake (R- Ariz.) delivering his 17-minute anti-Trump speech on the Senate floor. See the complete speech here.

October 25, 2017