Trump's Estrangement From the GOP One Republican at a Time

Trump's Estrangement From the GOP One Republican at a Time

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WASHINGTON — In the ongoing war between President Donald Trump and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., both sides have been bloodied — and the president’s relationship with the establishment GOP has deteriorated further.

There also may be no immediate relief from the political carnage for the many Republicans who are averting their eyes and hoping Trump’s attacks don’t upend his agenda, or theirs.

That’s because neither man has an incentive to back down. Corker is freed from the constraint of needing the president’s political support after having announced that he won’t seek re-election, and there’s a certain logic behind Trump’s itchy Twitter finger, which tapped out the mocking sobriquet “Liddle’ Bob Corker” Tuesday morning.

“The president is channeling the views of a lot of conservatives who still feel burned by the Iran nuclear deal and who feel that (Corker) is a bit of a chickenhawk when it comes to conservative issues,” said Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union and a Trump ally.

“He clearly is demonstrating that his party does not dominate his judgment on everything, so he’s OK with going after these Republicans who are unreliable on key issues,” Schlapp added. “He tends to pick targets that have been bothering Republicans for a long period of time.”

The tiff with Corker is a classic Trump fight — public, brash and with a member of his own party. But it’s one that some Republicans see as particularly dangerous, given Corker’s centrality to the GOP’s hopes of getting anything big done in Congress by the end of the year and the dwindling patience of Corker’s colleagues.

“I don’t think anyone wins,” said Christian Ferry, founder of the Trailblazer Group and manager of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s 2016 presidential campaign. “It just continues us on the path of complete dysfunction.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders continued the dispute Tuesday afternoon, framing Corker as an architect of the Iran nuclear deal that Trump has trashed and advising the senator to “stop taking vacations.” A spokesperson for Corker disputed he was responsible for the Iran deal and the senator’s chief of staff stepped out from behind the scenes to try to set the record straight on Twitter.

Corker was actually one of Trump’s closer allies in the Senate, and reportedly put on short-lists for both the vice presidency and secretary of state. During the campaign, he reliably defended Trump from what he called the “fecklessness and ineptness of the Washington establishment.”

Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, certainly has more friends in the GOP cloakroom than Trump. And the president’s picking yet another fight with yet another GOP senator is unlikely to shore up the party’s narrow two-seat majority in the Senate.




Image: Bob orker

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reacts to the firing of FBI Director James Comey by President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, early Wednesday, May 10, 2017.