In unloading on Mr. Trump, Mr. Corker, a two-term senator from Tennessee, said in public what many of his Republican colleagues say in private — that
- the president is dangerously erratic and unstable, that
- he treats his high post like a television show and that
- he is reckless enough to stumble the country into a nuclear war.
.. The president has already seen what can happen with a 52-vote Senate caucus that can be thwarted by the defection of just three Republicans. Until now, Mr. Corker has not been one of the renegades on those high-drama votes that killed Mr. Trump’s health care legislation. By himself, Mr. Corker could make it that much harder for the president to hold a fragile majority on upcoming votes on taxes, among other priorities — and if he emboldens other Republican doubters, it could add to Mr. Trump’s challenge.
The White House spent Monday morning telling its allies that Mr. Corker is responsible for the fight, not Mr. Trump, and that the senator was an attention-seeking obstructionist. But few of Mr. Trump’s allies accepted that narrative. One close associate of the president, who asked not to be identified to discuss the situation more candidly, said Mr. Trump’s entire agenda could be dead because Mr. Corker has a lot of friends on Capitol Hill.
.. “every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him.”
.. many Senate Republicans no doubt were relieved not to be in session this week
.. repeatedly blocked, lashing out at Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the party leader, for not getting the job done. He has also engaged in open conflicts with Senators
- John McCain and
- Jeff Flake of Arizona,
- Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina and
- Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, among others.
.. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and his allies were incredulous that the president would anger a senator just a week before a budget vote that is critical to tax cuts when the party’s 52-vote majority can be thwarted by just three defections.
.. “Under the normal, traditional rules of politics of the last 40 years of my life, a president would not poke a senator in the eye when he has a two-seat majority and a major legislative agenda needing to be accomplished,” said former Representative Thomas M. Reynolds
.. “Corker’s comments carry credibility because of his reputation as a thoughtful senator not known for shooting from the hip,” he said. “There is an old saying in politics: Don’t pick a fight with someone who has nothing to lose.”
.. Stephen K. Bannon, acting in what he says is the president’s interest, is organizing a rebellion against the Republican establishment and recruiting candidates to challenge incumbent senators in primaries next year. Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff has talked about a “purge” of Republicans who are not loyal to Mr. Trump.
.. They also stood against him when he engaged in a protracted public campaign against his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, a former colleague of theirs in the Senate, warning him that if he fired Mr. Sessions they would not confirm a successor
.. “Guys like Bob Corker, I think, have reached the point where it’s like, ‘Can we not pretend the emperor is not naked? Can we not pretend the emperor is not unstable in a way that we should’ve understood very, very clearly more than a year or two years ago?’” Charlie Sykes
.. As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Corker could single-handedly block the confirmation of a new secretary of state should Mr. Trump push out his embattled chief diplomat, Rex W. Tillerson
.. He would presumably play a key role in any decision on whether to tear up the Iran nuclear deal. And as a longtime deficit hawk, he could also become a challenge for Mr. Trump as the president seeks to pass deep tax cuts that would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the national debt.
.. said to have told associates that the 5-foot-7 senator was too short.