ABC News host George Stephanopoulos pressured vocal anti-Trump Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday to retaliate against President Donald Trump’s controversial press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin by sinking Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
“Senator, you have a lot of leverage. One-vote margin for the Supreme Court in the Senate. If you withhold your vote, you can demand accountability from the president, from his team,” Stephanopoulos said during a segment on “Good Morning America.” “Are you willing to do that?”
Flake has wielded the confirmation of Trump’s judicial nominees against him before. The senator threatened to hold up Trump’s judicial nominees during a June interview on ABC News’ “This Week” unless the Senate opposed Trump’s tariffs.
Although Flake didn’t refuse outright to implement Stephanopoulos’ suggestion to block Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, he warned that “it’s more difficult” for him to reject Kavanaugh.
“Well, I’ve used that on other issues, like tariffs, where we can look at a defined objective. For me, it was getting a vote on tariffs last week, and we did,” Flake replied. “It’s more difficult in this regard, however.”
Noting that the Constitution gives the president “a lot of power with regard to foreign policy,” Flake said the Senate would “have to see if there is an objective measurable that we can demand before using leverage like this. That’s what I’m looking at.”
Trump fielded the bipartisan Helsinki backlash after saying during the event that he holds “both countries responsible” for Russia’s interference with the 2016 U.S. presidential election because “we’re all to blame.” Trump also said Monday that while he has “great confidence in my intelligence people,” he believes that Putin “was extremely strong and powerful in his denial.”
The president’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh last week also spurred near-apoplectic fits from liberal activists and pundits who worried that Roe v. Wade would be at risk if the Senate confirmed the conservative Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
The press conference caused mainstream media members, Democrats, and Republicans to erupt into mass hysterics. Former CIA Director John Brennan even tweeted that “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous.”
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
And Stephanopoulos registered his displeasure with Trump’s press conference as well, as he pressed Flake to name the kinds of actions he planned to take in retaliation.
“You say you’re concerned. You say this was shameful. The big question now is what you can do about it,” Stephanopoulos wanted to know. “You’re a Republican senator. You’ve been quite critical, as we said, of the president.”
“Many are demanding that you take some action right now as well. Sen. [Chuck] Schumer [D-N.Y.] said it’s time to ramp up sanctions, said it’s time to bring the president’s team up to Capitol Hill to testify about what happened there, to demand extradition of the Russians,” Stephanopoulos continued, referring to the 12 Russian officials special counsel Robert Mueller indicted last week.
“Are you willing to call for that, and are you willing back it up with action?” Stephanopoulos demanded of Flake.
The senator insisted the U.S. ought to increase sanctions against Russia and “target those who were implicated with the indictments.”
“Second, we ought to have the national security team of the White House come up and talk to us on Capitol Hill about what happened there,” Flake added. “Third, I think immediately the Senate ought to pass a resolution stating our support for the intelligence community, and that we do believe them, and we don’t believe the denials coming out of Vladimir Putin’s mouth.”
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