Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday defended two top cabinet officials and the special counsel tasked with investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election after statements by President Trump and reports have raised questions about their job security.
“I wish it would stop,” Corker told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius in a live interview, referring to Trump’s public criticism of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“I don’t get any sense that the president is going to take steps to actually fire Sessions,” Corker said. “I think they understand that’s problematic — highly problematic.”
He added, “I know of no professional reason for Jeff to step down.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia investigation, has faced similar criticism from the president.
Corker said any move by the Trump administration to fire Mueller would be a “major mistake” and a “major miscalculation.”
“I cannot imagine a serious conversation taking place in the White House about firing Mueller,” Corker said.
“Discussing it publicly,” he added, “is, I hope and believe, an unnecessary waste of time.”
Corker, who said he has a “very close relationship” with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, also addressed speculation that the former ExxonMobil CEO might be considering stepping down — rumors that Tillerson shot down on Wednesday.
“I don’t think Tillerson is on the verge of resigning,” the Tennessee Republican said. “I don’t see that.”
Corker said he views the secretary of state as “a patriot.”
“I view him as someone who cares deeply about the future of our country and its national security and foreign policy interests,” he added, but acknowledged “dissonance” between the president and his national security team including Tillerson, defense secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
On Russia sanctions legislation:
Corker called a bill imposing new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea that overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives this week an “excellent piece of legislation.” The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration and possible amendment.
“We didn’t negotiate with the White House or the State Department,” said Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The Trump administration has objected to some provisions in the bill because it limits the president from easing sanctions on Moscow without congressional approval. Corker insisted that congressional review is an “important aspect and should be a part of all that we do in the future.”
On health care:
Corker, who was one of 9 Republican senators to oppose a version of Obamacare repeal on Tuesday night, further weighed in on the health care debate.
Corker said that “big social policy should take place in a bipartisan manner,” but he acknowledged that there will “likely not” be meaningful cooperation between Republicans and Democrats on the issue.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way for that happen, possibly, is to repeal it years out, 2020, and force people to come together,” he said.