Trump defies Republican critics with Senate 'lovefest'

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Media captionRepublican Senator Jeff Flake announces his retirement

US President Donald Trump has described his meeting with Republican senators as a “love fest”, despite attacks on his character by members of his own party.

He mocked his critics on Twitter, adding that Republicans had given him a “standing ovation” at a Capitol Hill lunch on tax reform on Tuesday.

His visit was largely overshadowed by public denunciations from Republican Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake.

Mr Trump said the retiring senators “had zero chance of being elected”.

“The meeting with Republican Senators yesterday, outside of Flake and Corker, was a love fest with standing ovations and great ideas for USA!” Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning.

“The reason Flake and Corker dropped out of the Senate race is very simple, they had zero chance of being elected. Now act so hurt & wounded!” the president continued.

On Tuesday Mr Flake took to the Senate floor to deliver a fierce attack on the US president while announcing his resignation.

In announcing his decision to not seek re-election in 2018, the Arizona Republican decried the “reckless, outrageous and undignified behaviour” at the top of the US government, which he said was dangerous to democracy.

The speech came as the US president already found himself embroiled in a row with another Republican Senator, Bob Corker from Tennessee.

Before confirming his decision in a speech to the Senate, Mr Flake told the Arizona Republic newspaper “there may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party”.

Taking to the floor, he said he did not enjoy criticising the president but felt it was “a matter of duty and conscience”.

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Media captionA protester threw Russian flags at Donald Trump as he headed for a meeting with Republicans

“We must never regard as ‘normal’ the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals,” he said.

“I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr President, I will not be complicit,” he added.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said it was “probably a good move” Mr Flake was standing down, suggesting he would not win re-election.

Following the speech, Mr Flake wrote in an opinion piece for the Washington Post: “The outcome of this is in our hands.”

“We can no longer remain silent, merely observing this train wreck, passively, as if waiting for someone else to do something.”

Another prominent party critic of Mr Trump, Senator John McCain, was quick to pay tribute to Mr Flake.

US Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell said he had “witnessed a speech from a very fine man”.

Mr Flake has long been a vocal opponent of Mr Trump, refusing to endorse him during the presidential campaign.

Although he largely voted in line with the party, his comparatively moderate views and critiques of the direction of the Republicans under Mr Trump have left him out of kilter with voters who made Mr Trump president.

For his part, Donald Trump has long wanted to oust Mr Flake, even offering to spend millions of his own money to see him unseated in primaries.

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Media captionLashing out: What Bob Corker really thinks of President Trump

In a series of television interviews earlier in the day, Mr Corker accused the president of lying, adding that he had debased the US and weakened its global standing.

Mr Trump fired back on Twitter, calling the Tennessee senator a “lightweight” who “couldn’t get re-elected”. Mr Corker is also not seeking another term in elections next year.

The feud overshadowed efforts by Mr Trump to build support for his proposed tax cuts. He met Republican senators for a lunch time meeting.

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