The “surreal” feud between president Donald Trump and Senator Bob Corker – as defined yesterday by Cowen analyst Chris Krueger – escalated on Tuesday, when the White House said the outgoing GOP senator was partially responsible for the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran but refused to say whether the retiring Corker should resign immediately. “Senator Corker worked with Nancy Pelosi and the Obama administration to pave the way for that and rolled out the red carpet for the Iran deal,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during today’s briefing.
As The Hill adds, reporters pressed Sanders on the claim, noting that Corker originally opposed the deal and that he led a bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill to have the deal reviewed by Congress, against Obama’s wishes.
“He worked with them on the legislation that rolled that out,” Sanders responded. “That’s what helped I think put things in motion. He may have voted against the deal ultimately, but he not only allowed the deal to happen, he gave it credibility. I stand by my statement.”
Adding fuel to the fire, Sanders criticized Corker throughout the press conference. Asked if Corker should resign, as former Trump chief strategist Stephen Bannon suggested previously, Sanders responded “I think that’s a decision for Sen. Corker and the people of Tennessee.”
The feud between the President and the Senator resumed this morning, when Trump on Tuesday claimed The New York Times set up Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to look like a fool — by recording an interview.
“The Failing @nytimes set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation,” Trump tweeted. “Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am dealing with!”
The Failing @nytimes set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am dealing with!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2017
As a reminder, in the interview Corker ripped Trump suggesting the president was unstable and that his threats to other countries risked putting the U.S. “on the path to World War III.”
Trump’s tweet prompted the NYT to respond.
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) October 10, 2017
In an article on Tuesday, the NYT’s Jonathan Martin clarified that “far from being set up, Mr. Corker asked that I tape our conversation. “I know they’re recording it, and I hope you are, too.”
President Trump claimed on Twitter today that The Times “set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation.” Mr. Trump was referring to our interview Sunday with Mr. Corker, the Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which he said Mr. Trump was recklessly tempting “World War III,” treating the presidency “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something” and required constant supervision by his own staff.
As the reporter who conducted the 25-minute telephone interview with Mr. Corker, I thought I would offer more insight about what actually transpired.
Far from being set up, Mr. Corker asked that I tape our conversation.
“I know they’re recording it, and I hope you are, too,” he said as two of his aides listened in on other lines, one of them also taping the interview.
As with most on-the-record discussions with an elected official, I was recording our conversation to ensure accuracy.
And after Mr. Corker got off the phone, his two aides made sure I had recorded the call. Like the senator, they wanted to ensure his extraordinary charges were precisely captured.
As Mr. Corker noted in our interview, his comments were only the latest, and sharpest, critique he had made of Mr. Trump this year.
Trump’s accusation escalates his feud with Corker, a onetime ally and an influential member of the upper chamber. The president responded last weekend by claiming Corker had begged him for his endorsement but that he had declined. Corker shot back, saying the White House had become “an adult day care center.”
Far from merely a verbal spat, the rising antagonism between the two politicians could endanger Trump’s effort to pass an overhaul of the tax code. As reported yesterday, Trump can only afford to lose two GOP senators, and Corker told the Times that he would not support a plan that blows a hole in the federal budget.
Corker also chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and could have a major say over the future of the Iran nuclear deal, which the president is expected to decertify in the coming days.