Trump and Corker’s Feud Erupts Again, This Time Over Taxes

Updated on
  • Trump says GOP senator couldn’t get elected ‘dog-catcher’
  • Corker suggests president should stay out of tax debate

Trump, Corker Get Into Twitter Spat

The feud between President Donald Trump and Bob Corker escalated with the president calling the senator “incompetent” and Corker accusing Trump of “debasing our nation” in an angry back-and-forth that could complicate the GOP’s path to a tax overhaul.

Corker, in a series of television interviews Tuesday morning, unleashed a devastating attack on Trump’s presidency.

“When his term is over I think the debasing of our nation, the constant non-truth-telling, just the name-calling,” the Tennessee Republican said on CNN, “the debasement of our nation will be what he will be remembered most for, and that’s regretful.”

Trump retaliated on Twitter, calling Corker -- who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and isn’t seeking re-election -- a “lightweight” who “couldn’t get elected dog catcher” in his home state.

The salvos could hardly come at a worse time for the GOP, which is eager to project unity on a tax-cut plan that’s at the center of Trump’s agenda. Corker’s lashing of the president came only a few hours before Trump headed to Capitol Hill for a closed-door lunch with Republican senators to talk about the tax overhaul. Corker, who has expressed concern about the impact of the tax plan on the deficit, said Trump’s participation in the lunch was a “photo op.”

Corker told reporters at the Capitol Tuesday that White House staffers have previously asked him to “please intervene” when Trump was seen as about to do something “really off the tracks.” The president has shown “no evolution in an upward way,” Corker said, adding that he appears to be “almost devolving.”

‘Step Aside’

In a separate interview on NBC, Corker said the president should stay out of the tax debate.

“The tax-writing committees in the Senate and the House are going to be laying out the $4 trillion in loophole closings that need to take place,” Corker said. “Hopefully the White House will step aside and let that occur in a normal process.”

Trump fired back, saying Corker was unpopular in his home state and was obstructing the effort to cut taxes.

“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. He alleged that Corker "dropped out of the race in Tennessee when I refused to endorse him” and said he “now is only negative on anything Trump.”

Read More: Muddled White House Tax Message Clouds Pitch for Trump Plan

Corker opposed the nuclear deal with Iran in 2015. He has become a more vocal critic of Trump in recent weeks, including by calling the White House an “adult day care center.” Corker’s chief of staff has said Trump asked Corker to reconsider his retirement decision and offered to endorse him.

Corker responded to Trump’s tweet with his own, tweeting, “Same untruths from an utterly untruthful president” and adding the hashtag “#AlertTheDaycareStaff.”

The war of words between Trump and Corker is the latest example of how the administration has gotten distracted from the tax overhaul effort.

Aside from the president’s personal feuds, inconsistent communication from the White House about how its tax plan would work and who would benefit risks undermining Trump’s campaign to build public support for his signature initiative. It also leaves lawmakers guessing about what the president wants, or at least is willing to accept, as Congress fills in the broad tax framework Trump and GOP leaders released last month.

Follow the Trump Administration’s Every Move

House Speaker Paul Ryan -- who has been careful to praise the president in public after a tense period during last year’s campaign -- told reporters Tuesday he doesn’t think the spat between Corker and Trump will affect passage of the tax overhaul. The Wisconsin Republican said he hoped the two men could resolve their differences in person.

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Corker referred to the Trump administration’s move to back away from fully repealing the state-and-local tax deduction and Trump’s declaration Monday that there would be no changes to tax-deferred retirement savings.

In an interview that aired Tuesday on CBS’s “This Morning” program, Corker called on the White House to “stay out of taking things off the table and really negotiating against the process before it even begins.”

While the president has made public appearances outside Washington to promote the tax plan, he also has fueled several distractions with his Twitter account, picking fights with the National Football League and the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, railing against Obamacare subsidies and igniting a week-long spat over his call with the grieving widow of a U.S. soldier killed in Niger.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed Corker as “ineffective.”

“If Bob Corker is suggesting leaving it to the professionals and he’s referring to himself, we’ve left it to him long enough and he’s been ineffective,” Sanders said Tuesday on Fox’s “Fox & Friends” program. “And now I think we need to let the president take the lead on this front.”

Corker has also opposed Trump on foreign policy and on his handling of the presidency. He said Tuesday the president’s approach on North Korea “could lead to a world war.”

“I want him to support diplomatic efforts, not embarrass and really malign efforts that are underway to try to get some diplomatic solution,” Corker said on NBC’s “Today” show.

In a CBS interview, he accused Trump of dividing the country on purpose.

“It appears to be the governing model of this White House to purposefully divide,” he said. “It’s to consolidate base. Not to bring people together.”

— With assistance by Anna Edgerton, and Kim Chipman

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