Senator Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) internal struggle between being a loyal Republican and being a patriotic American leaned away from strict party discipline and towards the behavior of a lame duck with nothing to lose today as he made a surprising declaration on the Senate floor today.
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As the co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill to protect the investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Senator Flake has been frustrated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to allow the bill to reach the Senate floor for a vote.
With a term that ends in January, Senator Flake, having decided not to stand for reelection, acted to use what little leverage he has in the congressional lame duck session before the new Congress is sworn in.
He informed Senator McConnell that, unless the Mueller protection bill is allowed to have a vote, he would withhold his vote for every single judicial nominee that comes before the Senate Judiciary Committee, thwarting McConnell’s plans to use the next few weeks to ram an unprecedented number of conservative judges down the throats of the American public while the Republicans have only a single vote majority in the chamber.
.@JeffFlake announces on the floor he has informed McConnell he will not for any judicial nominees on the floor or in the Judiciary Committee until the Mueller protection bill gets a floor vote
— Phil Mattingly (@Phil_Mattingly) November 14, 2018
Of course, Senator’s Flake’s leverage only lasts a few weeks until the new Senate convenes where Republicans will likely have a majority with at least one more seat than they currently control and a replacement for Flake on the Judiciary Committee. Then McConnell will in theory be able to, if his coalition sticks together, confirm all the judges he wants to.
While the largely symbolic move does bring public attention to the real danger that Trump’s controversial appointment of Matt Whitaker as acting Attorney General could torpedo the Special Counsel’s probe, Twitter denizens questioned Flake’s sudden discovery of his spine after his last-minute intervention in the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh still resulted in a confirmation vote for the accused sexual assaulter despite the wholly inadequate FBI investigation that Flake’s entreaties triggered.
Where was this spine a month ago with Kavanaugh?
— Allison Floyd (@AllisonRFloyd) November 14, 2018
Flake has lied to us before about these things. He wouldn't vote to confirm Kavanaugh until investigation. He wouldn't vote to confirm Kavanaugh if Kavanaugh lied under oath. Well, Kavanaugh lied under oath and Flake confirmed him. #FlakeLies
— Maddie Reese (@MadieRes) November 14, 2018
If only had those cojones during the Kavanaugh hearing. Instead of caving to a sham FBI investigation. Instead of looking the other way when there was obvious perjury. We'll believe this when we see it.
— Suzanne Kelleher (@SuzanneKelleher) November 14, 2018
With Flake’s credibility in tatters, most people are taking a wait and see attitude over whether he will uphold today’s vow. McConnell. for his part, still needs to explain to the American public how he continues to claim that there is no need to protect Mueller and his inquiry when the President’s every move this week in relation to the Justice Department indicates otherwise.
Luckily, once the new Democratic-controlled House is sworn in, their investigatory committees can help discover many of the same things that Mueller’s team is already investigating, so Trump’s obstruction options may become narrower and justice may be closer to being served. We await the final outcome impatiently.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.
Original reporting by Phil Mattingly at CNN.