01:35 - Source: CNN
GOP Rep to Trump: McCain, Flake are 'your team'

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Republican Sen. Jeff Flake has broken from Trump in the past

Trump is trying to find someone to run against him in his Senate primary

Washington CNN —  

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake insists that he wants to “work with” President Donald Trump – despite Trump’s attempts to find a challenger to replace the sitting senator in his upcoming election.

The frequent Trump critic refrained from adding fuel to the fire Thursday morning on Fox News after Trump’s rally in Arizona on Tuesday – at which the President, without using his name, slammed Flake as “weak” in front of his home-state crowd.

When asked why Trump is not his biggest fan, Flake told Fox News, “I don’t know. I want to work with the President when I think that he’s right, and I’ll challenge him when I think that he’s wrong.”

After Tuesday’s rally, Trump tweeted a day later: “Phoenix crowd last night was amazing – a packed house. I love the Great State of Arizona. Not a fan of Jeff Flake, weak on crime & border!”

Before taking the stage in Phoenix, Trump huddled privately with potential Republican primary challengers to Flake.

The backstage meeting included former state GOP chairman Robert Graham and state treasurer Jeff DeWit – two candidates Trump has urged to consider opposing Flake – as well as Rep. Trent Franks.

Two sources familiar with the meeting told CNN the meeting was focused on ousting Flake – whom Trump at times has called “the flake.”

In the Fox News interview, Flake said that despite their person clashes, he agrees with a lot of the President’s agenda, including Trump’s decision to appoint Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and his plans for the border wall.

However, he later added that he disagrees with Trump’s plans on trade, as well as his “tone.”

“There are areas where I disagree with the President on,” he said, adding he doesn’t think the US should exit NAFTA or that it should have exited the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

And Flake suggested that Trump’s tone in public statements makes bipartisanship more difficult: “We’ve got to work with our colleagues across the aisles and tone works a lot then.”

But in the conciliatory interview, Flake said he was “glad” Trump visited his state on Tuesday.

“I was glad that the President came to Arizona,” Flake said. “It’s great to have the President go down and see the conditions on the border.”