Not once Tuesday night in Phoenix did President Donald Trump utter the names of Arizona’s two Republican senators, with whom he has clashed repeatedly and fiercely.
But he left no uncertainty about the hard feelings he has for Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake.
During remarks at a rally that lurched sharply from one topic to the next, Trump repeatedly referenced the “one vote” by which Senate Republicans fell short of passing a bill to keep the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act alive.
It was an unmistakable reference to McCain, whose surprise “no” vote sunk the push last month, angering Trump.
“They all said, ‘Mr. President, your speech was so good last night, please, please Mr. President, don’t mention any names.’ So I won’t. I won’t,” said Trump, perhaps referring to his advisers or allies.
“One vote away – I will not mention any names. Very presidential, isn’t it?” Trump said mockingly.
He seemed to relish his mode of attack.
Later, Trump took on Flake, also without naming him.
“Nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who’s weak on borders, weak on crime,” said Trump. “So I won’t talk about him.”
In a newly released book, Flake is sharply critical of Trump and has spoken out against him in recent months.
Last week, Trump wrote on Twitter that it was “great” that former state legislator Kelli Ward was challenging Flake in the Republican primary, distressing many top Republicans, both inside and outside the White House.
He did not mention Ward Tuesday night.
Trump addressed other topics sure to anger top congressional Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. He reiterated his desire to end the 60-vote threshold in the Senate for most legislation, which McConnell has repeatedly said he is not open to doing.
He also threatened to shut down the government if his border wall isn’t funded.
Trump didn’t only focus on Republicans. He called out Democratic senators who are from states that he won by “20 or 30 points.” Many Democratic senators in deep red states are facing reelection next year.
“I hope some of the Democrats who are going to lose their election are going to come over and vote for a tax cut,” he said.
Seemingly satisfied with his digs at McCain and Flake, Trump moved on to other topics. Having mentioned no names, Trump said, “Now, everybody’s happy.”
While Republicans from swing areas have grappled with how to address Trump for fear of alienating moderates, many conservative lawmakers have stuck by him, even amid his many controversies.
On Tuesday, Trump singled out three House Republicans from Arizona – Reps. Paul Gosar, Trent Franks and Andy Biggs – and thanked them. All represent safe Republican districts.
“Never let them go, don’t lose them,” Trump said as they departed the stage.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Sean Sullivan