Sen. Jeff Flake on Wednesday called President Donald Trump’s decision to deploy U.S. troops along the U.S.-Mexico border a “stunt,” noting that the troops in his home state of Arizona had actually been deployed almost 100 miles from the border itself.
“I think it’s unfortunate that we have soldiers there, and frankly in Arizona they are stationed in Tucson about 90 miles from the border. So they are not forward deployed actually on the border,” the outgoing Republican said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “So I think you can’t call it anything but a stunt here, and it’s unfortunate that they are going to be away from family during the holidays coming up, and we just don’t know what really for.”
Critics of the Trump administration have accused the president of using military resources as political chess pieces, along with heated rhetoric, in the lead-up to last week’s midterm elections in an effort to stir concern over caravans of asylum-seeking migrants headed for the U.S. as a dangerous “invasion.”
Trump railed against the migrants repeatedly in the final days of the campaign, but has fallen mostly silent on the issue since Election Day, save for an executive order last week to block the migrants from seeking asylum if they are caught crossing the border illegally.
Flake, an outspoken critic of the president who decided not to run for reelection because of his disagreements with Trump, said Wednesday that he thought the caravan was nothing that couldn’t be handled by “civilians that we have there in terms of border patrol and others.”
He added that he wasn’t sure he could offer words of affirmation to troops discouraged by their deployment to the southern border.
“I don’t know what I could tell them other than we shouldn’t be doing this,” he said. “This wasn’t an issue that Congress was involved in. It was an executive decision.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who sits on the Judiciary Committee with Flake and joined him on “Morning Joe,” said that he agreed with the retiring Arizona lawmaker.
“I would have to look them in the eye and say thank you for your service and I regret that our president is using you as a political stunt,” he said.