Flake to denounce Trump media attacks as Stalinist in Senate speech

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.

"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.

"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."

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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.

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Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) arrives for meeting about the Republican Tax Reform package on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Sen. Jeff Flake speaks with reporters ahead of votes on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) speaks with reporters about the Senate health care bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 12, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
American aid worker Alan Gross (2nd R) poses after his release with L-R, U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) at the airport in Havana, Cuba, December 17, 2014 in this photo tweeted by Rep. Van Hollen. The United States is planning to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba more than 50 years after they were severed, a major policy shift after decades of hostile ties with the communist-ruled island. REUTERS/Courtesy the office of Rep. Chris Van Hollen/Handout (CUBA - Tags: POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 5: Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., listens as President Donald Trump speaks before hosting a lunch with Senate Republicans in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Dec. 05, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 9: Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Jan. 09, 2018. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 30: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) looks on during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing concerning the authorizations for use of military force, October 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. As Mattis and Tillerson face questions about the administration's authority to use military force, Congress is still seeking more information about the deadly ambush that killed four U.S. troops in Niger. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 24: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill after announcing he will not seek re-election October 24, 2017 in Washington, DC. Flake announced that he will leave the Senate after his term ends in 14 months. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 24: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and his wife Cheryl Flake leave the U.S. Capitol as they are trailed by reporters, October 24, 2017 in Washington, DC. Flake announced that he will not be seeking re-election and he will leave the Senate after his term ends in 14 months. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 18: Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., listens as Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Full committee hearing on 'Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice' on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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"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.

n 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.

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