WASHINGTON —President Donald Trump took a shot at another Republican lawmaker Friday, calling Sen. Bob Corker’s comment that the president does not understand the nation’s character and has not demonstrated competence “strange.”
Corker, who represents Tennessee and chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined a half-dozen other Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who have borne the brunt of Trump’s tweets.
“Strange statement by Bob Corker considering that he is constantly asking me whether or not he should run again in ’18. Tennessee not happy!” Trump tweeted Friday morning, revealing the private conversations he has had with the senator.
But Twitter can be a two-way street. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) posted his own tweet to prod Trump to shift his attention away from praising his chief of staff, defending his record in office and chiding Corker — and put his focus back on Hurricane Harvey.
Shortly before 9 a.m., and after a series of Trump tweets, Grassley tweeted, “@realDonald Trump #hurricane keep on top of hurricane Harvey don’t mke same mistake Pres Bush made w Katrina.”
That reference to President George W. Bush’s much-criticized handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was Grassley responding to Trump, his aides said in an email.
Trump’s next two tweets were about his conversations with the governors of Texas and Louisiana, the states in the hurricane’s path, and the briefing he received on hurricane preparations from his top homeland security officials and FEMA Director Brock Long.
This week, Trump also called out Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), describing him as “weak on crime & border,” and blamed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for voting against an Obamacare repeal bill. He has poked at Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
Asked what Trump’s endgame is in criticizing Republicans, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday said, “I think it’s clear the endgame is for Congress to do its job and actually pass legislation.”
The remarks by Corker that drew Trump’s attention came at an event in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last week while talking to reporters about Trump’s equivocating comments about violence at a neo-Nazi and white supremacist protest earlier this month.
“The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,” Corker said. He added Trump also hasn’t shown “he understands the character of this nation . . . and what has made this nation great and what it is today.”
Asked about that comment Thursday, Huckabee Sanders said, “I think that’s a ridiculous and outrageous claim and doesn’t dignify a response from this podium.”
Corker is up for re-election in 2018, and most political handicappers project him to win re-election if he runs for a third term as expected.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, the other Republican representing Tennessee, downplayed the tension.
“There is no senator — no Republican senator — who President Trump talks to more than Bob Corker. I know that for a fact,” Alexander said, according to a statement from his press aide.
“They have great respect for one another,” Alexander said, “so my reaction is maybe it’s time for them to play another round of golf together.”
Trump had no public schedule Friday. He left in the afternoon for a weekend at Camp David in Maryland, and plans to go to Texas next week, Huckabee Sanders said.