Sen. Corker: Trump’s behavior setting the nation ‘on the path to World War III’
Corker’s comments, first made via Twitter and later in an interview with the New York Times, came in response to an extraordinary feud instigated by Trump and marked the sharpest rebuke of this president by a senior Republican officeholder.
“He concerns me,” Corker told the Times. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.” He added, “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of [senior administration officials] trying to contain him.”
The explosive comments not only breach what had been one of Trump’s few personal relationships on Capitol Hill, but also jeopardize the president’s legislative priorities. As chairman of the foreign relations panel, Corker, Tenn., will help determine the future of the Iran nuclear deal, and his support will be critical in passing broad tax cuts.
Trump alleged Sunday morning in a Twitter tirade that Corker recently “begged” him for his endorsement, did not receive it and decided to retire because he “didn’t have the guts” to run for reelection next year.
Corker tweeted a biting retort: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”Meanwhile, Corker’s chief of staff, Todd Womack, denied Trump’s characterization of his private conversations with the senator, who announced last month that he plans to retire and not seek reelection in 2018.
Trump’s outburst comes after Corker made headlines last week when he starkly suggested that the administration’s national security team provides the president with badly needed adult supervision. Corker told reporters that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly “are those people that help separate our country from chaos.”
Trump, who has little tolerance for public criticism and prides himself on counterpunching those who cross him, took to Twitter on Sunday to attack Corker.
Trump tweeted: “Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without . . . my endorsement). He also wanted to be Secretary of State, I said ‘NO THANKS.’ He is also largely responsible for the horrendous Iran Deal! Hence, I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice and stand in the way of our great agenda. Didn’t have the guts to run!”
Womack said Trump has repeatedly offered to support Corker, and as recently as last week asked the senator to change his mind and run for reelection.
“The president called Senator Corker on Monday afternoon and asked him to reconsider his decision not to seek reelection and reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times,” Womack said in a statement.
Apparently unwilling to let Corker’s “adult day care center” barb be the last word, Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon that Corker was an ineffective senator and could not “get the job done.”
“Bob Corker gave us the Iran Deal, & that’s about it,” Trump tweeted. “We need HealthCare, we need Tax Cuts/Reform, we need people that can get the job done!”
In a 25-minute telephone interview with the Times, Corker questioned Trump’s fitness for office and said that the president’s recklessness is endangering the country — an assessment he said was shared by most other Senate Republicans.
“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” Corker told the Times. He added, “Of course, they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”
Corker, who is one of Tillerson’s few confidants and staunch defenders in Washington, criticized a Trump tweet last weekend that undercut Tillerson’s negotiations with North Korea.
“A lot of people think that there is some kind of ‘good cop, bad cop’ act underway, but that’s just not true,” Corker told the Times. He added, “I know [Trump] has hurt, in several instances, he’s hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out.”
The squabble comes just days before Trump is expected to “decertify” the Iranian nuclear pact reached with world powers in 2015 and punt to Congress a decision about whether to restore sanctions against Iran. This would be the first in a series of highly orchestrated steps that White House, State Department and congressional officials — primarily Corker, as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee — have been planning for months.