President Donald Trump’s tweets Sunday morning claiming he denied Sen. Bob Corker’s request for an endorsement are false, two sources familiar with the discussions said.
President Trump told Corker he was going to endorse him the day the Tennessee Republican announced his intention to retire, the sources said.
“The President called the senator early last week and asked him to reconsider his decision not to seek re-election and reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times,” one of the sources said.
President Trump attacked Corker in a series of tweets Sunday, days after the Tennessee Republican made public comments criticizing him, prompting Corker to respond by tweeting an insult later in the morning calling the White House “an adult day care center.”
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 President Trump prepares to press Congress to advance his proposed tax overhaul and tensions reportedly grow between President 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 President Trump’s foreign policy challenges, including over how to handle the Iran nuclear deal.
It’s not the first time President Trump and the White House have privately sent one signal to Corker while publicly saying something else. Following Corker’s pointed attack on President 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…” President 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!” President 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 President 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 President Trump a few months into his presidency.
Corker said in August that President Trump had not yet demonstrated “the stability nor some of the competence” he needed to be successful.
He said Wednesday that Tillerson, 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 President 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 President 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 President Trump’s intelligence, calling him a “moron,” in front of other top officials.
Tillerson’s statement of support for President Trump prompted the President to say his secretary of state had refuted the story about the insult. President 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.”