White House Has Met With Potential Flake Primary Challengers

The White House has been meeting with prospective opponents of Sen. Jeff Flake in recent weeks, a sign of President Donald Trump's willingness to play hardball with congressmen who do not toe his line, Politico reported on Monday.

Flake, who is up for reelection in 2018, has been a top Republican critic of Trump, refusing to endorse him during the 2016 election.

Those who support Flake praise him as an independent-minded senator, but his detractors criticize him as a grandstander. David Bossie, Trump's deputy campaign manager, reportedly told Graham that he or DeWit would get significant support from conservatives if they launched campaigns.

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Since taking office, Trump has spoken with Arizona state Treasurer Jeff DeWit, a top official on his 2016 campaign, on at least two occasions, according to two sources familiar with the talks. DeWit and Graham are both exploring campaigns, while Ward has already announced her candidacy.

A lot of people believe in Trump's policies, said former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a prominent immigration hard-liner who backed Trump, noting that the president remained popular in Arizona. Kelli Ward and former Arizona GOP chair Robert Graham, the report said. Recognizing the slim margin for the success of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell-who previously had been in a rush to get the bill to a vote before the July 4 recess-again delayed the vote for at least another week, to wait for McCain to recover and return to Washington after having surgery for a blood clot above his eye.

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