Donald Trump Is at War With Arizona’s Republican Senators. It Could Get Worse Tonight.

“Toxic!”

Chris Kleponis/Zuma

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As President Donald Trump heads down to Arizona for a rally Tuesday evening, a lot of the attention is focused on potential clashes between Trump supporters and protesters and the possibility he’ll announce a pardon disgraced former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. But there’s another subplot worth watching: the escalating battle between Trump and Senate Republicans over Arizona’s 2018 Senate race.

The fight stems from Trump’s ongoing feuds with Arizona’s two Republican senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain. In 2015, Trump famously insulted McCain’s experience as a POW in Vietnam. McCain has been a thorn in Trump’s side at various points during his presidency, including casting the deciding vote to kill the latest Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare. For his part, Flake has been an ardent Trump critic and slammed the president in a recent book. Trump took to Twitter on August 17, calling Flake “toxic!” And Trump went even further; he praised Kelli Ward, a conspiracy theory-friendly former Arizona state senator who unsuccessfully ran against McCain during the 2016 primary and hopes to unseat Flake in 2018.

That’s not quite an endorsement of Ward, but it’s a lot more friendly than the message being sent by GOP leaders in the Senate. On Tuesday, hours before Trump’s rally, the Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC run by allies of Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky) and funded by donors allied with McConnell, released an ad slamming Ward and her “crazy ideas.”

The ad largely mirrors one released during the 2016 primary by McCain’s campaign committee. McCain beat Ward by nearly 13 percentage points in that race. Ward’s campaign released its own ad on Monday slamming Flake and asking him, “Why are you still attacking the president? Just to sell copies of your new book?” 

Robert Mercer, one of Trump’s major donors and a major funder of the pro-Trump website Breitbart News, donated $300,000 to a PAC supporting Ward’s primary bid, according to Politico, which notes that the White House has met with several potential primary challengers to Flake.

It’s not yet clear whether Trump will use his high-profile appearance at the Phoenix Convention Center to fan the flames of his fight with Flake and McCain. But it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if he did.

SIX TRUTHS

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

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