Trump tweeted Sunday morning 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.
“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.
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.
Trump’s slams on Corker come days after the senator made public comments criticizing him. 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.
The flare-up between the two leaders highlights the long-simmering differences between GOP leaders and the President, who has not shied away from attacking the leadership over their inability to move health care legislation. It also comes as Trump prepares to press Congress to advance his proposed tax overhaul and tensions reportedly grow between Trump and members of his own Cabinet — especially Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — on issues such as the way to handle North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Corker’s vote will be critical on tax reform, and he remains an influential voice on Trump’s foreign policy challenges, including over how to handle the Iran nuclear deal.
It’s not the first time Trump and the White House have privately sent one signal to Corker while publicly saying something else. Following Corker’s pointed attack on Trump for his handling of the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Vice President Mike Pence quietly sought to repair ties with Corker after the President attacked the Tennessee Republican on Twitter, sources said.
“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 wrote in a series of three consecutive tweets
. “..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.
Corker responded shortly after: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning,” Corker wrote.
Corker, the chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, announced late last month he would not seek another term in the Senate
and has made some critical comments about Trump’s demeanor and temperament.
Former US attorney Preet Bharara, now a senior legal analyst at CNN, retweeted Corker’s response, remarking, “An adult day care center whose chief resident can’t count to 51.”
Bharara was fired by Trump
a few months into his presidency.
Corker said in August
that Trump had not yet demonstrated “the stability nor some of the competence” he needed to be successful.
He said Wednesday
Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly “help separate our country from chaos.”
Corker also said Tillerson has not received the support he needs from Trump.
“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.”
Tillerson, who has reportedly been displeased with Trump and his own role in the administration, made a public statement last week reaffirming his support for the President after news reports spoke of acrimony between the two men — principally, that Tillerson had questioned Trump’s intelligence, calling him a “moron,” in front of other top officials.
Tillerson’s statement of support for Trump prompted the President to say his secretary of state had refuted the story about the insult. Trump later told reporters inside a Las Vegas hospital, where he was visiting the victims of last Sunday’s mass shooting, that he has “total confidence” in Tillerson and said reports that the secretary of state called him a moron were “fake news” and “totally made up.”