President Donald Trump pushed back against criticism from Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., that his approach to foreign policy could put the United States “on the path to World War III.”
“We were on the wrong path before. All you have to do is take a look. If you look over the last 25 years through numerous administrations, we were on a path to a very big problem — a problem like this world has never seen,” Trump said during a meeting Tuesday in the Oval Office with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. “We’re on the right path right now, believe me.”
Trump also said his feud with Corker would not hinder his administration’s efforts to pass tax reform. Republicans hold a narrow majority in the Senate.
Trump suggested Tuesday morning that Corker’s recent conversation with The New York Times was recorded without his awareness. Corker told The New York Times that Trump is treating the presidency like a “reality show,” and accused Trump of hurting the United States’ standing with different countries by his tweets and comments.
“The Failing [New York Times] set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am dealing with!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
Corker’s office declined to comment on Trump’s tweet.
In excerpts of the interview, Corker acknowledges that his conversation with the New York Times was “on the record,” an agreement that his remarks can be published and attributed, and not a private discussion.
“I understand we’re on the record,” Corker said at the beginning of the phone call with The New York Times. “I don’t like normally talking to you on the record – I’m kidding you – but I will.”
According to New York Times reporter Jonathan Martin, who interviewed Corker, the senator was aware he was being recorded and had two congressional aides on the phone call with him who were also recording the conversation.
At one point, Trump and Corker, who was also a fellow real estate developer, were friendly. Corker rallied with Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign and endorsed him for the GOP nomination ahead of the Republican National Convention last year. Trump had also considered Corker for his running mate and as secretary of state.
Corker, however, criticized Trump for his response to the violent clashes between white supremacists and anti-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia in August.
“The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate that he needs to be successful,” Corker said on Aug. 17.
The feud came to a head when Corker defended Rex Tillerson, an ally of his, after NBC News reported that the secretary of state had called Trump a “moron” and was on the verge of resigning back in July. Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill that same day, Corker said Tillerson isn’t receiving the support he needs from the administration and defended Tillerson as someone who helps “separate our country from chaos.”
On Sunday, Trump made Corker the target of his attacks, tweeting that Corker, who decided not a seek a third term in the Senate, was desperate for his endorsement.
“Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without…my endorsement). He also wanted to be Secretary of State, I said ‘NO THANKS.'” Trump wrote, adding that the senator “didn’t have the guts to run.”
Corker fired back in a tweet; “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center,” Corker posted. His chief of staff also denied Trump’s claims.
“The president called Corker on Monday afternoon and asked him to reconsider his decision not to seek reelection and reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times,” Todd Womack said in a statement to ABC News.
Corker told the New York Times that his criticism of the president doesn’t stem from his choice to not seek reelection, though he is now freed from seeking voters’ favor.