At yesterday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters “the relationships” between Donald Trump and congressional Republicans “are fine.” Soon after, asked about Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-Tenn.) concerns about the president, Trump’s spokesperson added that the senator’s rhetoric has been “ridiculous and outrageous,” and “doesn’t dignify a response from this podium.”
The president kept this going this morning via Twitter:
“Strange statement by Bob Corker considering that he is constantly asking me whether or not he should run again in ‘18. Tennessee not happy!”
For those keeping score at home, the number of prominent Republican officials who’ve been publicly targeted over the last month now includes Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and now, Corker.
This morning’s message, however, wasn’t just a casual brush-back pitch: Trump suggested the Tennessee Republican should be concerned about his re-election prospects next year. By all appearances, Corker isn’t especially vulnerable – to a primary rival or a Democratic challenger – but the point is, a GOP president isn’t supposed to be going after an incumbent senator of his own party ahead of his re-election bid.
We discussed yesterday the deteriorating conditions surrounding Trump and his ostensible Republican allies, but as it turns out, they haven’t yet hit rock bottom. The president seems to realize someone’s going to be held responsible for his party’s failures, and he’s furiously taking steps to make sure it isn’t him.
That said, the feud with Corker isn’t altogether expected. Following up on our previous coverage, as recently as last summer, there was a fair amount of chatter about Corker, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, serving as Donald Trump’s 2016 running mate. It reached the point that the Tennessee Republican felt the need to publicly and formally withdraw from consideration.
After the election, the scuttlebutt was nearly as loud about the GOP senator joining Trump’s cabinet as secretary of state.
Corker remained on Capitol Hill, however, where he’s grown increasingly unimpressed with this White House. After Charlottesville, Corker has made his dissatisfaction with the president clear, arguing publicly that Trump “recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation.”
The senator added, “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order for him to be successful – and our nation and our world needs for him to be successful, whether you are Republican or Democrat.”
Instead of taking the concerns to heart, Trump, true to form, is lashing out at Corker.