Just hours before President Donald Trump is set to head to Capitol Hill to meet with Republican senators over lunch, he took to Twitter to attack one.
“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!”
Trump’s tweets are a) not true b) come in response to Corker’s appearance on several morning TV shows today. Trump, according to CNN’s reporting, not only asked Corker to run again but said he would endorse him and campaign with him. Corker decided to retire anyway – and has turned into a major Trump critic.
“It appears to be the governing model of this White House to purposely divide,” he said on “CBS This Morning.” He later tweeted in response to Trump’s attacks: “Same untruths from an utterly untruthful president. #AlertTheDaycareStaff”
Trump’s early morning tweets are also not the first time he has attacked Corker. And it’s far from the first time he has gone after a Republican senator – even as he will need each and every vote to get his tax-reform package pass.
By my count, Trump has personally attacked 11 senators – or, roughly, 21% of the entire 52 person GOP conference between his time as a candidate and his nine months in the White House. That’s more than 1 in 5!
Here’s a list of the senators – and what Trump has said about each. They are listed in alphabetical order.
* Bob Corker (Tennessee): See above. Also, this gem from earlier this month “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!” Corker has implied that Trump is badly out of his depth, someone who can’t (or won’t) tell the truth, and a person who, given free reign, would plunge the country into chaos.
* Ted Cruz (Texas): Trump has largely left “Lyin’ Ted” alone since the campaign for president ended. But remember that Trump not only suggested Cruz was a hypocrite for touting his religion and then lying about Trump but he also suggested that the Texas senator’s father might have something to do with the JFK assassination. Oh yeah – Cruz called Trump a “pathological liar” and a “utterly amoral.”
* Jeff Flake (Arizona): Flake wrote an entire book critical of Trump and the Republican party that has so quickly accepted the one-time-businessman’s takeover of the party. Never one to let a slight go unanswered, Trump has hit Flake repeatedly. “Phoenix crowd last night was amazing - a packed house,” he tweeted over the summer.”I love the Great State of Arizona. Not a fan of Jeff Flake, weak on crime & border!” Trump has also huddled with several potential primary opponents planning runs against Flake – an absolutely unheard of move by a siting incumbent.
* Lindsey Graham (South Carolina): After Graham was critical of Trump’s statement following the Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacist violence, Trump tweeted this:
“Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer. Such a disgusting lie. He just can’t forget his election trouncing. The people of South Carolina will remember!” (Trump crushed Graham in his home state of South Carolina’s presidential primary.) Graham and Trump appear to have made up; the two men played golf together earlier this month.
* Dean Heller (Nevada): The last time Trump met with the entire group of GOP senators was in July on healthcare. In that meeting, he issued a not-very-veiled threat to Heller who faces a primary challenge from his ideological right. “This was the one we were worried about,” Trump said, referring to Heller who was sitting next to him. “You weren’t there. But you’re gonna be. You’re gonna be. Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?”
* John McCain (Arizona): No Republican senator has clashed more – and for longer – with Trump than McCain. The two have had a very sketchy relationship since the summer of 2015 when Trump said that he didn’t consider McCain a real war hero because he had been captured. (McCain was held in a North Vietnamese prison camp – where he was beaten and tortured – for more than five years. After McCain voted against Trump’s preferred vehicle to repeal and replace Obamacare, Trump lashed out via Twitter; “John McCain never had any intention of voting for this Bill, which his Governor loves. He campaigned on Repeal & Replace. Let Arizona down!”
* Mitch McConnell (Kentucky): Following the failure to pass healthcare reform over the summer, Trump lashed out at McConnell – putting the blame for the failure on the Senate GOP leader. “Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!,” Trump tweeted in August. Around that same time, Trump refused to answer whether he thought McConnell should consider resigning if he couldn’t get the president’s agenda through Congress. (It all began with McConnell’s statement to a local rotary club in Kentucky that he believed Trump has “excessive expectations” as to what Congress could get done.) McConnell insisted during an appearance on “State of the Union” this past Sunday that everything is hunky-dory between the two men now.
* Lisa Murkowski (Alaska): After Murkowski joined with McCain and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine in voting against the repeal and replace effort, Trump sent this tweet: “Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad!”
* Rand Paul (Kentucky): Paul and Trump have developed a close relationship over the the last few months of 2017. But, it wasn’t always so. “Rand Paul is a friend of mine but he is such a negative force when it comes to fixing healthcare,” Trump tweeted last month. “Graham-Cassidy Bill is GREAT! Ends Ocare!” And, during the presidential campaign, Trump seemed to relish going after Paul despite the fact that the Kentucky senator was no more than a blip in the polls. “First of all, Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage,” Trump said at a debate in September 2015. “He got number 11. He’s got 1 percent in the polls and how he got up here - there’s far too many people anyway.”
* Marco Rubio (Florida): “Little” Marco was a prime Trump target during the 2016 campaign. “Rubio is weak on illegal immigration, with the worst voting record in the U.S. Senate in many years. He will never MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!,” Trump tweeted in March 2016. “I will be using Facebook and Twitter to expose dishonest lightweight Senator Marco Rubio,” went another Trump tweet. “A record no-show in Senate, he is scamming Florida.”
* Ben Sasse (Nebraska): Trump hasn’t attacked Sasse by name much – but when he did it was a classic. “.@BenSasse looks more like a gym rat than a U.S. Senator. How the hell did he ever get elected?,” Trump tweeted in January 2016.
The problem with all of these attacks is, well, math. Republicans can only afford to lose two votes on any piece of legislation – assuming (as we should assume) they don’t get any Democratic votes. Personally insulting senators doesn’t mean they will absolutely oppose Trump’s agenda but it sure as hell doesn’t help.
All of which reinforces this simple fact: The secret of Trump’s strategy – in Congress and everywhere else – is that there is no strategy.