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GOP senators rally behind Trump, his agenda

Erica Werner
Associated Press

Washington — There was no dam break of Republican rancor against Donald Trump on Wednesday, a day after a pair of the party’s prominent senators denounced their president and invited colleagues to join them. Instead, most GOP lawmakers rallied around Trump and his agenda.

“Maybe we do better by having some of the people who just don’t like him leave, and replace them with somebody else,” Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma told The Associated Press. “And I think that’s what’s happening.”

Trump heartily agreed, declaring that both men were retiring because they couldn’t win re-election, and “I think I’m probably helped greatly in Arizona by what happened with Sen. (Jeff) Flake.”

Inhofe went further than most GOP lawmakers, but he had plenty of company in his refusal to echo the criticisms of Flake of Florida and Bob Corker of Tennessee. Trump himself proclaimed he was leading a party unified in its pursuit of tax cut legislation.

“There is great unity in the Republican Party,” he contended as he left the White House for a hurricane briefing and other events in Texas. Claiming a show of affection at his appearance at a Senate GOP lunch a day earlier, Trump said: “I called it a lovefest. It was almost a lovefest. Maybe it was a lovefest.” He’s said repeatedly that he got multiple standing ovations.

But if the lunch — no outsiders allowed — displayed unity of sorts, the events that preceded and followed it did the opposite. First Corker and then Flake blistered Trump with criticism, accusing him of leading the nation into a moral black hole. Both lawmakers do plan to retire at the end of next year, a semi-bombshell Flake dropped Tuesday, freeing them to speak without fear.

Flake kept it up Wednesday with an opinion piece in The Washington Post. He likened the current moment to the red scare era of the early 1950s when Sen. Joseph McCarthy threw accusations of communism at a wide range of people.