WASHINGTON — Sen. Jeff Flake is planning to slam President Donald Trump’s attacks on the press on the Senate floor this week in a speech that will compare the president’s use of the term “enemy of the people” to describe the media to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
“When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him ‘fake news,’ it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press,” Flake, R-Ariz., will say, according to excerpts of the speech provided to NBC News.
Trump called the media the “enemy of the people” in a February tweet. “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” the president wrote on Twitter.
The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017
“Mr. President, it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies,” Flake plans to say in the Senate remarks.
“It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even (later Soviet leader) Nikita Khrushchev forbad its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin to for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader,” Flake will say.
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“This alone should be a source of great shame for us in this body, especially those of us in the president’s party. For they are shameful and repulsive statements.”
The speech from one of Trump’s fiercest Republican critics comes as the president has promoted his “Fake News Awards” on Twitter, saying that the awards, expected to be on Wednesday, will go to “the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media.”
Since the 2016 election, Flake has emerged as a sharp critic of Trump, writing a book challenging the president earlier this year.
Flake, who is not running for re-election, explained his rationale for the upcoming Senate speech in an interview with NBC News’ Kasie Hunt for Sunday night’s “Kasie DC” on MSNBC, urging fellow GOP lawmakers to resist the temptation to “retreat into camps” when dealing with Trump.
“What I’m trying to do with this speech is basically trying to nudge the president back where I think that we, as elected officials, ought to be. And I think that that’s a role that I should have as a member of the Senate,” Flake told Hunt in the interview.
“We have a balance of power, separated powers here. We shouldn’t all be afraid to criticize the president when we think he’s wrong,” he added.
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In the Senate speech, Flake plans to label Trump’s attacks on the press as “unprecedented” and “unwarranted.”
“2017 was a year which saw the truth — objective, empirical, evidence-based truth — more battered and abused than any other time in the history of our country, at the hands of the most powerful figure in our government,” Flake will say, according to the excerpts.
In an interview with Hunt, Flake reiterated his opposition to labeling the media the “enemy of the people.”
“I don’t think that we should be using the phrase that’s been rejected as too loaded by a Soviet dictator,” Flake said.
To see the full interview with Sen. Jeff Flake watch “Kasie DC” on MSNBC Sunday, 7-9pm ET.