Sen. Bob Corker has critiqued President Donald Trump before
He was under consideration by the transition team to join Trump's cabinet
President Donald Trump and Sen. Bob Corker are once again having a public spat, exposing a tumultuous relationship between two high-profile Republicans that could have a major impact on their party’s plans for governing and policy.
The ongoing public feud between Corker and Trump exploded Tuesday ahead of the President’s high-stakes visit to Capitol Hill for tax negotiations, with the Tennessee Republican telling CNN’s Manu Raju he wouldn’t support Trump for president if given the opportunity again.
The President had earlier accused Corker, who has said he will not run for re-election in 2018, of blocking his party’s efforts on tax cuts.
The off-message exchange between the two men escalates a rift that has highlighted divisions between Trump and several Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill at a critical time for his tax agenda.
Here’s a look at some of Trump and Corker’s public interactions:
April 28, 2016 – Corker won’t endorse Trump, but says he “supports” him
Corker stopped short of endorsing Trump, but he praised Trump’s evolution as a politician.
Calling Trump’s foreign policy address the day before a “really good transition in the campaign,” Corker commended Trump for “challenging the foreign policy establishment that has been here for so long.”
May 23, 2016 – Corker describes a “good meeting” with Trump
Corker, who at the time was rumored to be on Trump’s shortlist for vice president, said that he had “a good meeting about foreign policy and domestic issues” with the then-presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
Corker, who said he’d never met with Trump before, downplayed the VP speculation, adding he had no reason to believe he was being considered for the #2 slot. Instead, the Senate foreign relations committee chairman said he met with Trump at his namesake tower in New York to discuss China, Russia and other foreign and domestic policy issues.
“We had never talked except on the phone,” said Corker after the meeting. “It was more of a get-to-know-each-other kind of meeting. It was really more of a policy meeting.”
November 16, 2016 – Corker “in the mix” for secretary of state
Corker told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he knew he was “in the mix” for secretary of state of Trump’s Cabinet during the transition.
“I also understand that there are people who are very close to the campaign who have had long term friendships who are also in the mix,” he said. “So my sense is that those people are being looked at very closely right now so we’ll see how it turns out.”
He continued: “It’s been an honor to be in the mix so we’ll see what happens.” Trump would eventually choose Rex Tillerson to be his secretary of state.
May 16, 2017 – Corker says White House in ‘downward spiral’
Corker is among the congressional Republicans who appears openly critical of the Trump White House amid a series of scandals to be made public in May.
“They are in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening,” Corker told reporters, his comments coming after reports surfaced that Trump had revealed sensitive intelligence to Russia’s foreign minister and US ambassador.
Corker continued, “You know the shame of it is there’s a really good national security team in place, there’s good productive things that are underway through them, and through others. But the chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating an environment that I think — it creates a worrisome environment.”
August 17, 2017 – Corker: Trump hasn’t demonstrated the stability or competence to be successful
Corker slammed Trump’s handling of the racially motivated protests in Charlottesville, charging that the President “has not demonstrated he understands the character of this nation.”
The Tennessee Republican told reporters in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that he thought there must be “radical changes” within the White House.
“The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,” Corker said, according to a video posted by local news website Nooga.com.
August 24, 2017 – White House fires back at Corker: ‘Ridiculous’
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders fired back at Corker who said Trump hasn’t demonstrated the “stability” or “competence” he needs to display as president.
“I think that’s a ridiculous and outrageous claim that doesn’t dignify a response from this podium,” Sanders said at the time, in the White House’s first response to the comments.
August 25, 2017 – Trump: ‘Strange statement’ from Corker
The sharp rebuke in August by Corker set off a torrent of criticism from the White House, with Trump tweeting about the episode.
“Strange statement by Bob Corker considering that he is constantly asking me whether or not he should run again in ’18,” Trump tweeted. “Tennessee not happy!”
Asked about that tweet, Corker said: “I thought his tweet was fine.”
Corker said he’s had “multiple interactions” with senior officials at the White House since the flap, and said “no question my relationship is just the same as it was before.”
“Oh, I mean, I talk to the President about almost everything,” Corker said. “We spend a lot of time together. We play golf. We, you know, they talked to me about being potentially vice president, secretary of state, so I’ve had multiple conversations about the future with lots of people. So, I’m sure when we played golf, the topic came up.”
September 11, 2017 – Corker says he is weighing whether to retire in 2018
Corker told CNN’s Raju he is weighing whether to call it quits next year.
Corker said that he has not made a decision about his future, and appeared to confirm Trump’s tweet that he asked the President for political advice about whether to run for reelection.
“As far as what am I going to do in the future, I’m still contemplating the future,” Corker said in an interview. “It’s a tremendous privilege to do what I do, and to weigh in on the big issues. … But I have not decided what I’m going to do in the future.”
September 14, 2017 – Corker says he has ‘strong’ relationship with Trump
Ahead of his meeting with Trump, Corker was asked about his relationship with the President.
“Our relationship is very, very strong. We have a one-on-one private meeting tomorrow at 1 p.m. ET,” he told reporters at a news conference. “For people to act as if there’s daylight between us, that just is not true.”
September 15, 2017 – Corker and Trump meet at the White House
Corker met with the President at the White House on a Friday afternoon.
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Republican did not reveal much about what the two men said to each other, describing it as a “very productive one-on-one discussion.”
“Senator Corker and President Trump had a very productive one-on-one discussion before key members of the White House staff joined them to talk through a number of domestic and foreign policy issues,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The conversations were wide ranging and extremely constructive. In all, they were together for well over an hour.”
September 26, 2016 – Corker says he’s not running for reelection
Corker announced he will retire at the end of 2018.
“After much thought, consideration and family discussion over the past year, Elizabeth and I have decided that I will leave the United States Senate when my term expires at the end of 2018,” Corker said in a released statement.
October 4, 2017 – Corker says Tillerson, Mattis and Kelly ‘separate our country from chaos’
Corker said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly “help separate our country from chaos.”
“I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos, and I support them very much,” the Republican chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee told reporters Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
When asked about the relationship between Trump and Tillerson, which is reportedly on thin ice, Corker suggested that the secretary of state doesn’t have the support he needs from the President.
“I mean, look, I see what’s happening here,” Corker said. “I deal with people throughout the administration and (Tillerson), from my perspective, is in an incredibly frustrating place, where, as I watch, OK, and I can watch very closely on many occasions, I mean you know, he ends up being not being supported in the way I would hope a secretary of state would be supported, that’s just from my vantage point.”
October 8, 2017 – Trump tweets Corker begged for endorsement, Corker responds
Trump tweeted in a series of posts attacking Corker that he denied the senator’s request for an endorsement – a claim denied by Corker’s chief of staff, Todd Womack, later in the day.
“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…” Trump tweeted. “..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!” Trump added.
“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.
The President continued to slam Corker in a tweet in the late afternoon.
“Bob Corker gave us the Iran Deal, & that’s about it. We need HealthCare, we need Tax Cuts/Reform, we need people that can get the job done!” he wrote.
Trump told Corker he was going to endorse him the day the Tennessee Republican announced his intention to retire, two sources familiar with the discussions said.
The senator responded to Trump’s tweets with an insult later in the morning, calling the White House “an adult day care center” in a Twitter post.
Then, later that night, Corker told The New York Times that Trump is setting the country “on the path to World War III.”
He also said Trump is a President who is acting “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”
“He concerns me,” Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”
October 24, 2017 – Corker and Trump feud ahead of Hill visit
In a series of tweets, the President accused Corker of fighting tax cuts and called him a “lightweight.” Corker responded by again likening the White House staff to a daycare center.
“Bob Corker, who helped President O give us the bad Iran Deal & couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee, is now fighting Tax Cuts,” Trump tweeted. “Corker dropped out of the race in Tennessee when I refused to endorse him, and now is only negative on anything Trump. Look at his record!”
Corker soon responded on Twitter: “Same untruths from an utterly untruthful president. #AlertTheDaycareStaff.”
Trump’s criticism appears to stem from Corker’s refusal to support a tax plan that adds to the deficit after factoring in economic growth projections, which depending on how the Republicans develop their tax plan, could be the case.
Later Corker, asked in an interview with CNN if he should have backed Trump’s presidential campaign, said he “would not do that again.” He also said Trump has “great difficulty with the truth.”
“You wouldn’t support him again?” Raju asked.
“No, no way,” Corker said.
Corker said Trump has “proven himself unable to rise to the occasion.”
“I think many of us, me included, have tried to, you know, intervene, and I have had a private dinner and have been with him on multiple occasions to try and create some kind of aspirational approach, if you will, to the way that he conducts himself,” Corker said. “I don’t think that that’s possible. He’s obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president.”
After the CNN interview aired, Trump tweeted, “Isn’t it sad that lightweight Senator Bob Corker, who couldn’t get re-elected in the Great State of Tennessee, will now fight Tax Cuts plus!”
He tweeted shortly after: “Sen. Corker is the incompetent head of the Foreign Relations Committee, & look how poorly the U.S. has done. He doesn’t have a clue as….. …the entire World WAS laughing and taking advantage of us. People like liddle’ Bob Corker have set the U.S. way back. Now we move forward!”
This story has been updated to include more information about developments in their relationship.
CNN’s Kristin Wilson and Manu Raju contributed to this report.