- Samantha Sais/Reuters
Robert Mercer, a hedge fund billionaire and one of President Donald Trump’s top benefactors, has donated $300,000 to a super PAC charged with defeating Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, an outspoken Trump critic, in the 2018 midterm election, Politico reported Wednesday.
A major Breitbart News funder who was brought into Trump’s inner circle by White House chief strategist and Breitbart founder Steve Bannon, Mercer will fund former state Sen. Kelli Ward’s Republican primary run against Flake.
The development is an ominous sign for Flake, whose approval rating among Arizonans recently dropped to 36%.
The senator’s criticism of Trump drew renewed attention last week with the release of his book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” in which Flake argues that the Republican party is “in denial” about the Trump presidency and accused it of “maintain[ing] an unnerving silence as instability has ensued.”
Flake refused to endorse Trump for president, skipped the Republican National Convention last summer, and called on the candidate to drop out of the race after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape last October. At one point, Trump promised to spend $10 million out of his personal coffers to defeat the senator.
During a briefing last week, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she didn’t know whether Trump would personally finance the primary challenge, but she did not rule it out.
“Sen. Flake would serve his constituents much better if he was less focused on writing a book and attacking the president” and more focused on “passing legislation,” Sanders said.
The White House has met with Ward and two other Republicans considering primary runs against Flake, according to Politico.