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Republican Corker: Trump has not demonstrated ‘stability’ or ‘competence’ to lead effectively

After President Trump's rhetoric on the Charlottesville violence inflamed more criticism, a handful of GOP lawmakers are speaking out while many stay silent. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
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President Trump drew a new and forceful round of criticism Thursday from a leading Republican senator who asserted that Trump has not demonstrated the “stability” or “competence” necessary to effectively lead the country.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has been one of the most outspoken GOP Trump critics in Congress, expressed displeasure with Trump’s response to the deadly weekend violence in Charlottesville and warned that if the president does not change his behavior, “our nation is going to go through great peril.”

“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,” the senator told reporters in Tennessee. “And we need for him to be successful.”

Corker’s remarks came on a day when at least two other Republican senators — Tim Scott (S.C.) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska) — also faulted the president. Scott, the only African American Republican in the Senate, said in an interview with Vice News that Trump’s “moral authority is compromised.”

Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took some pauses as he spoke, appearing to choose his words carefully. Video of the question-and-answer session was posted on Facebook by a staff writer for

Corker said Trump also “recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation. He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great and what it is today.”

While many Republicans have spoken out against Trump this week, few have been willing to be as direct and extensive in their comments as Corker. In recent months, the senator has often been willing to venture further than many of his colleagues. For example, he said in May that the White House was in a “downward spiral” after the revelation that Trump had revealed highly classified information to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador.

Still, Corker did not advocate specific steps Congress ought to collectively take to punish the president or compel him to change. Asked for his reaction to the push by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) to try to impeach Trump, Corker did not endorse the move.

Trump has drawn criticism from Republicans and Democrats for blaming “both sides” for what happened in Charlottesville, where white supremacists organized and carried out a rally that also drew counterprotesters. A woman was killed in the unrest.

“I don’t think that the president has appropriately spoken to the nation on this issue,” said Corker, speaking of the language Trump has used about white supremacists.

Also on Thursday, Sullivan tweeted: “Anything less than complete & unambiguous condemnation of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK by the @POTUS is unacceptable. Period.”

In his interview with Vice News, Scott said: “What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happens. There’s no question about that.” Tuesday was when Trump said, “I think there’s blame on both sides.”

Trump took to Twitter earlier Thursday to criticize two Republicans, Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), who have spoken out against him. He called Flake “WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate.” He also praised Flake’s primary challenger.

Said Corker: “Senator Flake is one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met. The White House would be well served to embrace the character, the substance of someone like Senator Flake.”