President Donald Trump used part of his Tuesday night rambling diatribe in Arizona to chastise the state’s GOP senators, one of whom foiled the president’s plan to strip health care from millions.
In a 77-minute speech that at times seemed incoherent, the president inserted intermittent praise for himself, even as he bashed the state’s two senators, fellow Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake, by giving them what amounted to a verbal side eye.
“I will not mention any names! Very presidential, isn’t it? Very presidential,” Trump told the throng of supporters in the Phoenix Convention Center.
In a not-so-oblique reference to Flake, Trump fumed, “Nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who’s weak on borders, weak on crime.”
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Trump, who has called for a wall along the Mexican border and draconian border security, has characterized Flake as insufficiently harsh on crime and immigration, but the harsh words are more likely political payback. Flake has publicly opposed some of the president’s policies, but still votes with him more than 93 percent of the time, as CNN and FiveThirtyEight reported. Trump made his animus to his fellow Republican more clear early Wednesday, tweeting at 6:20 a.m., “Phoenix crowd last night was amazing—a packed house. I love the Great State of Arizona. Not a fan of Jeff Flake, weak on crime & border!”
Trump informally endorsed Flake’s Republican primary opponent, Dr. Kelli Ward, in a tweet last week, calling Flake “toxic!”
Trump on Tuesday night slammed Senate Democrats for opposing “great health care” in a recent vote against a repeal of the Affordable Care Act that would’ve stripped millions of health care coverage. Trump told the crowd that Democrats’ chief aim is “total socialism.”
McCain, who is battling brain cancer, was on the president’s hit list Tuesday night for casting the final vote that doomed the GOP effort to take away health care from those who gained coverage under the ACA.
“Think, think, we were just one vote away from victory after seven years of everybody proclaiming, ‘Repeal and replace!’” Trump fumed. “One vote away!”
The amped-up crowd greeted his anger with shouts of “Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp!” One attendee reportedly called for McCain’s death outside the rally, shouting “McCain needs to die now!”
McCain was one of three GOP senators who voted against the repeal bill.
Although Trump didn’t pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who long terrorized undocumented families, reports suggest it’s coming.
The White House has reportedly drawn up the paperwork necessary to pardon Arpaio, who was convicted last month of criminal contempt for defying a judge’s order to stop targeting undocumented immigrants.
The former six-term sheriff garnered national attention as the chief steward of the country’s most draconian anti-immigration laws. News of his possible pardon drew thousands of largely peaceful protesters to the downtown area Tuesday night.
“His nod to Arpaio is the latest sign of the white supremacy that is governing the White House and it will not be pardoned,” said Carlos Garcia, with the immigrant rights organization Puente Human Rights Movement, one of the groups protesting the president.
Speaking to Fox News on Tuesday, Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R) suggested a pardon is imminent.
“I think there is still a good chance that [Trump] will make a pardon to Joe Arpaio because, I think, if anyone understands political persecution, it would be Donald Trump.”