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GOP primary challenger rips into Flake for questioning Comey firing

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PHOENIX — A challenger to Sen. Jeff Flake in the 2018 Republican primary took a verbal swing at the senator after he questioned the timing of the decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey.

In a statement, Dr. Kelli Ward — who lost the 2016 Arizona Republican primary to U.S. Sen. John McCain — said Flake’s uncertainty was unfounded.

“Democrats and Jeff Flake are suffering from Trump derangement syndrome,” she said.

Earlier this week, Flake tweeted that he could not think of a rational reason to fire Comey at this point in President Donald Trump’s administration.

Flake was not alone in his thought process. However, Ward said Flake was using the timing excuse as a way to attack the president.

“The liberal talking point regarding ‘timing’ is simply another way to attack our President, who has proven once again that he means business,” she said.

Ward said the timing rationale is another conspiracy theory meant to destabilize the Trump administration.

“The establishment opposition has been reduced to pushing wild conspiracy theories in the hopes that it will delegitimize our president,” she said. “People didn’t buy their snake oil in November and they aren’t buying it now.”

Trump fired Comey earlier this week. He was only the second FBI director to be relieved of duties by a president since 1972.

While the president originally said Comey was dismissed because of the way he handled the investigation into former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server, his reasoning had become blurred in recent days.

Trump, in an NBC interview on Thursday, said that he had been intending to fire Comey — whom he derided as a “showboat” and “grandstander” — for months and that it had nothing to do with an investigation into potential ties between his campaign and Russia.

But he also said, “In fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”

Senate intelligence committee Chairman Richard Burr said he doesn’t think the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation was the reason for the firing.

White House officials said Trump is considering nearly a dozen candidates to replace Comey, Including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers and former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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