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Flake too ‘busy’ to get riled about latest Trump insult

PHOENIX — U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake said Monday that he had better things to do than pay attention to President Donald Trump’s latest criticisms, including calling the senator “toxic.”

“I’m busy doing other things,” he told media at an event in the East Valley. “It is what it is and we’ve got a lot of support around the state and we’ve got a good campaign. It’ll take care of itself.”

Trump attacked Flake on Twitter late last week and appeared to endorse one of the senator’s opponents in next year’s Senate primary, Dr. Kelli Ward.

Trump sent the tweet just days ahead of his Tuesday re-election campaign rally in Phoenix.

Flake said he will be in Tucson during the rally, while Ward may attend the event.

Flake has been trying to walk a careful line. He’s voted with Trump on important issues, but has been more willing than most GOP lawmakers to criticize him and did not endorse him last year.

“I think what Arizona expects of a senator is someone who will work with a president when he’s right and oppose him when they think he’s wrong,” Flake had said previously.

Flake brushed aside criticism from Trump and declined to discuss Ward’s campaign and emerging national profile, saying “I’ll leave her to her campaign. I’ll work mine.”

Ward, a physician who drew only 39 percent of the vote in a primary fight against U.S. Sen. John McCain last year, is seen as a longshot by top Arizona Republicans. She hurt herself last month by urging McCain to step down following his brain cancer diagnosis and suggesting she should be considered to replace him.

“We can’t be at a standstill for John McCain to determine what he’s going to do,” Ward told Indiana station 1190 AM WOWO.

Ward has since claimed the hubbub around her comments was a smear campaign against her.

Flake said at the time he was “dumbstruck” by what Ward said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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