The Senate Republican who once described the White House as an “adult day-care center” on Wednesday lamented that President Trump governs in a state of “constant chaos” and denounced his attacks on federal law enforcement agencies, the media and other U.S. institutions.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) praised the Trump administration for recent sanctions, expulsions of diplomats and other measures to punish Russia. But he said he wishes the president were personally more adversarial and questioned his instincts to foster goodwill with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I wish he would be tougher rhetorically on Russia, yes,” Corker said. “But I see the things we’re actually doing and they’re pretty strong. So is that the president’s tendency? No. Why is that? I don’t know.”
Speaking at a breakfast with journalists hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Corker said there is “constant chaos” around Trump — and he blamed the president for his habit of talking with “unconventional” advisers late at night.
“The president is very entrepreneurial,” Corker said. “He gets input at 11 o’clock at night, let’s say, comes in in the morning and he’s got a different mind-set.”
“You know, for the chief of staff it’s got to be a nightmare that at night there are people calling in from all over the country, he’s calling them, and the chief of staff doesn’t know they’re calling,” Corker said.
The senator observed that White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly does not vet the friends and associates from whom Trump solicits advice in the evenings, when the president often is in his private chambers watching cable news shows. By contrast, Corker said, “My staff spends the whole week making sure I’m meeting with people that are not crackpots.”
Corker admonished Trump for his attacks on the media as well as on the law enforcement community.
“I do not like the tearing down of institutions, and I’ve shared that with him,” Corker said. “I do not like it. I think that a continual tearing down of institutions in order to inspire your base and keep yourself protected with your base, to me, is damaging to our nation.”
He added, “I do not think tearing down the media is good for our nation. . . . Tearing down the Justice Department or the FBI is not a good thing for our nation.”
Corker, who is retiring from the Senate when his term is completed at the end of this year, said the president’s “entrepreneurial” system of seeking input results in constantly shifting policy positions — from foreign affairs to trade to fiscal issues.
Corker said he wishes Trump would become more supportive of free-trade policies, in the spirit of the Republican Party mainstream. “I think the rallies generated much of the policy,” Corker said, positing that Trump hardened his protectionist views based on crowd reactions at his political rallies.
Similarly, Corker decried as “grotesque” the recent spending bill, signed by Trump, that added $2 trillion in debt. He said the Republican Party under Trump has abandoned what had been one of its hallmarks, lowering the deficit.
“This president, obviously, is not a president who’s interested in fiscal issues,” Corker said. “Is this president a president who cares about the fiscal health of our nation? No. No.”
Corker also reflected on the frustration with the zigzagging nature of Trump’s presidency that he says is shared by many of his fellow senators.
“Look, we have a president who will sign legislation that we pass on the Republican side and then we have chaotic things that are going on a daily basis,” Corker said. “At 10 o’clock, you might feel one way. At noon, you might feel another way. At 2 o’clock, you might feel another way.”
Corker added, “Any Republican senator that hasn’t been conflicted over this presidency is either comatose or is pretty useless in their blindness — and we’ve got some of both.”