U.S. Sen. Bob Corker strongly criticized President Donald Trump on Tuesday after the two Republicans exchanged insults on Twitter, saying the president is consistently untruthful and has debased the United States and damaged its standing around the world.
“The president has great difficulty with the truth on many issues,” Corker said in a CNN interview at the Capitol, hours before Trump met with him and other senators to seek consensus on a tax reform plan.
“It’s amazing. Unfortunately, world leaders are very aware that much of what he says is untrue,” Corker continued. “Certainly people here are, because these things are provably untrue. They’re just factually incorrect and people know the difference.”
Although he is a foreign policy specialist, Corker is also a key player in the tax debate. His support could be crucial as Republicans seek passage of the White House-backed tax plan in the closely divided Senate.
House Speaker Paul Ryan tried to downplay the conflict, telling reporters, “I don’t think it’s changed our efforts on tax reform. I know Bob, who supported the budget, and wants to get tax reform. I know the president wants to get tax reform.”
The senator from Tennessee, who recently announced he was not seeking re-election, pulled no punches in his onslaught against Trump, acknowledging that tensions between the two men, once allies, have been building for months.
He assailed Trump for telling falsehoods that are easily disproven and questioned why he persisted in doing so.
“I don’t know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard and debases our country in that way, but he does. He is purposely breaking down relationships we have around the world that had been useful to our nation.… I think the debasement of our nation is what he’ll be remembered most for.”
Corker, who supported Trump for president, later told reporters it was a choice he regretted.
The latest exchange between the two Republicans was triggered by Trump in a salvo on Twitter in which he anticipated opposition from Corker for his administration’s tax reform plan.
Trump appeared to catch Corker’s appearance early Tuesday on NBC’s Today Show, when the senator claimed that the meeting later in the day between Trump and the Republicans was a photo op that was “not really about substance.”
Corker backed Trump on the campaign trail, and is shown appearing at a rally for Trump in Raleigh, N.C., on July 5, 2016. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
“Bob Corker, who … couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee, is now fighting Tax Cuts,” Trump wrote minutes later on Twitter.
Trump also claimed that Corker had supported the nuclear deal that the U.S. and several countries struck with Iran. Corker in fact voted against the deal.
Trump’s claims prompted a retort on Twitter from Corker, “Same untruths from an utterly untruthful president.”
Corker used the hashtag “#AlertTheDaycareStaff”, harkening back to comments he made earlier in the month that the White House had become an “adult daycare centre.”
Trump later in the morning issued a few more tweets directed at the Tennessee senator, including calling him “liddle’ Bob Corker,” a reference to the senator’s modest height.
When reporters caught up to Corker after the working lunch, which lasted about 90 minutes, he said Trump didn’t call him out during the lunch, and they had no interaction.
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