Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who is a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, sharply criticized the President on the Senate floor Tuesday for his remarks he made where he called Democrats “treasonous.”
Trump had accused stone-faced Democrats of treason for not standing and applauding during his State of the Union address.
“I have seen the President’s most ardent defenders use the now-weary argument that the President’s comments were meant as a joke, just sarcasm, only tongue in cheek,” he said. “But treason is not a punchline, Mr. President.”
During a speech outside Cincinnati, Trump called Democrats who didn’t applaud for him “treasonous.”
“They were like death and un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, ‘Treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not,” Trump said to laughter during a speech outside Cincinnati, Ohio on Monday.
Describing the Democratic response, where many lawmakers sat and frowned as Trump spoke, the President added: “Can we call that treason? Why not.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday the President was “clearly joking” when he made the comment.
“None of this behavior should ever be regarded as normal,” Flake continued on the Senate floor. “We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. We will get through this period.”
Sanders responded to Flake’s speech on the Senate floor by slamming the retiring senator during the White House briefing.
“I don’t really care what Senator Flake has to say. I don’t think his constituents do either. The President was clearly joking,” she said.
This isn’t the first time Flake has spoken out against the President on the Senate floor. In January, the Arizona Republican slammed the President for his repeated attacks on the truth as well as his colleagues for failing to be a check on Trump
Flake, who announced he will not be seeking re-election in 2018, has said he will use his remaining time in the Senate to speak out against the President when he believes it is warranted.
Flake announced his decision to retire in a Senate speech in October that bemoaned the “coarsening” tenor of politics in the United States and criticized his own party’s “complicity” with Trump’s behavior.
CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this report.