Sen. Jeff Flake encountered a raucous audience at a town hall meeting in Mesa, Arizona, on Thursday night.
Constituents peppered the Republican lawmaker with questions about President Donald Trump’s actions in office, and his broader agenda on climate change, the president’s taxes, the Supreme Court and Planned Parenthood.
Much like other GOP town halls held since Trump assumed the Oval Office, attendees railed against Flake, many of whom accused him of being a rubber stamp for Trump. Flake, like Reps. Jason Chaffetz, Mike Coffman, and Sen. Mitch McConnell before him, attempted to answer the audience’s concerns, though most explanations drew shouts and boos from the crowd.
That was especially evident when an audience member asked Flake about Trump’s nearly weekly trips to his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.
“Does this concern you at all? Do you approve a budget for these weekly excursions,” an unidentified woman asked. “If yes, how much is that? And if no, why do you have no desire to control President Trump’s spending or his personal profit from that spending?”
The audience erupted. Flake answered: “As I mentioned, I wasn’t critical of the last president or the president before that for what they do on their time off.”
“That’s something we’ll deal with when we deal with the budget,” Flake said, “but I’m not going to tell the president where he can and cannot spend his weekends.”
Flake often criticised Trump during the 2016 election and dramatically confronted the then-candidate at a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill in July.
Though Flake’s town hall on Thursday did not appear to have a large presence of demonstrators as those of some high-profile congress members in recent months, Flake at times struggled to contend with fits of chanting and jeering from the crowd at the Mesa Convention Center.
- “Can you please take your job more seriously, senator? We would appreciate it,” one woman asked, displeased with Flake’s response to a question about holding Trump accountable.
- “Three things always come out: the sun, the moon, and the truth — why don’t you get in front of those,” a man asked, concerning the congressional investigations into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
- On a question about Republican leaders’ refusal to hold confirmation hearings for Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, Flake said the move was not without precedent. A man in the audience shouted, “Bulls–t!” as the crowd chanted “shame on you.”
- “When do you feel like you’ll have the backbone or conviction to put country over party and impeach him,” a man asked Flake of Trump. “I don’t care for Mike Pence either, but he’s not as dangerous as Trump,” the man said.
Not all of the questions were hostile, and some constituents applauded Flake for sharing his time. The senator extended the meeting by one hour to take more questions, but the mood frequently returned to a bitter note. “Can you just remind me when you’re up for reelection,” one woman asked. The audience erupted in cheers at the question.
Flake replied: “I think everybody knows.”
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