Trump blasts Corker on Iran, negative voice and begging for endorsement but senators spokesman says president in fact asked him not to retire
After Donald Trump issued a fierce Twitter rebuke of Bob Corker, the retiring Republican senator tweeted back: Its a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.
The exchange between the president and the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee was the latest undignified episode in Trumps bizarre and fractious relationship with the Republican establishment and parts of his own administration. Trumps treatment of secretary of state Rex Tillerson this week prompted remarks from Corker that were seen as critical of the president.
Midway through Sunday morning, Trump wrote: 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. Didnt have the guts to run!
In a statement to the Guardian, Corkers chief of staff, Todd Womack, directly contradicted Trump.
The president called Senator Corker on Monday afternoon and asked him to reconsider his decision not to seek re-election and reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times, he said.
Corker was considered for both vice-president and secretary of state and was a key Trump ally during much of the 2016 campaign. He has since become a vocal critic.
He is an important and supportive voice on the deal between Iran and six major nations including the US that restricts Tehrans pursuit of nuclear weapons. It was reported this week that Trump, against the wishes of senior advisers, will not re-certify the deal. That would put it in the hands of Congress, which would decide whether to reimpose sanctions, a move that would threaten the deals existence.
Corker announced his decision to retire last month. The most important public service I have to offer our country could well occur over the next 15 months, he said, hinting at his opposition to the president. I want to be able to do that as thoughtfully and independently as I did the first 10 years and nine months of my Senate career.
This week, he made headlines when he implied that Trump was leading the US to the brink of chaos.
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill about reports that Tillerson called Trump a fucking moron and considered resigning, Corker said: I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary [of defense Jim] Mattis and Chief of Staff [John] Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos.
Asked if he was referring to Trump, he said: [Mattis, Kelly and Tillerson] work very well together to make sure the policies we put forth around the world are sound and coherent. There are other people within the administration that dont. I hope they stay because theyre valuable to the national security of our nation.
On Wednesday, Tillerson denied that he had thought of resigning but did not say he had not called the president a moron, leading to reports of presidential fury. Speaking briefly to reporters on Saturday, Trump said he and Tillerson had a very good relationship but said the secretary of state could be tougher.
Last weekend the president, who in his debut at the United Nations said the US could totally destroy North Korea, slapped down his top diplomat over efforts to pursue talks. On Saturday, Trump tweeted that only one thing will work to rein in Pyongyang. In his remarks to the press, he refused to clarify what that meant.
Corker has also said he could oppose moves by Trump and congressional Republicans to pass tax reform, a priority after the repeated failure of attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Corker has insisted that any changes to the tax code must reduce the deficit. Trumps plan would likely increase it. Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate, making defections costly.
Later on Sunday, Trump tweeted again: Bob Corker gave us the Iran deal, & thats about it. We need HealthCare, we need Tax Cuts/Reform, we need people that can get the job done!
Trumps endorsement for Senate races, meanwhile, may be of dubious utility. Last month in Alabama Luther Strange, the man Trump endorsed for the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, lost a party primary runoff to Roy Moore, a hardline conservative twice removed from the state supreme court.
Trump subsequently deleted tweets in support of Strange and switched his support to Moore.