- Alex Wong/Getty Images
- Republican Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake lambasted President Donald Trump on Tuesday. It was one of the fiercest rebukes of the president yet from members of his own party. It came less than a week after former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush blasted the state of US politics.
A pair of retiring Republican senators spent Tuesday excoriating President Donald Trump in what was an unprecedented day of lambasting from members of the president’s own party.
GOP Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who have both publicly criticized Trump previously, ratcheted up that criticism to new highs this week, shifting attention away from Trump’s feud with a Gold Star family and a Florida congresswoman and back onto the deepening divisions between Trump and Republican senators.
First to engage with Trump was Corker, who in recent weeks has pilloried the president he once rallied with. He made a pair of appearances on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today,” during which he doubled down on his past criticism of the president.
Corker also advocated for Trump to be hands-off on both foreign policy and tax reform, which drew Trump’s ire.
“Bob Corker, who helped President O give us the bad Iran Deal & couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee, is now fighting Tax Cuts,” Trump tweeted after Corker’s TV appearances, adding, “Corker dropped out of the race in Tennessee when I refused to endorse him, and now is only negative on anything Trump. Look at his record!”
Corker fired back on Twitter, writing: “Same untruths from an utterly untruthful president. #AlertTheDaycareStaff.” The hashtag was a reference to previous statements he’d made calling the White House an “adult day care center.”
Corker and his office had previously explicitly denied Trump’s suggestion that he decided to retire from the Senate because Trump refused to endorse him, instead claiming that Trump had offered to endorse him on a number of occassions before Corker decided against running for reelection in 2018.
It was after Trump’s early-morning tweets that Corker went even further in his lambasting of the president, whom he said to CNN would be most remembered for the “debasement of our nation.”
“Let’s just put it this way, I would not do that again,” he said when asked about his support for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Corker went on. He said Trump is “obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president,” adding that he is concerned about the president’s “leadership, and just his stability, and the lack of desire to be competent on issues and understand and nothing has changed.”
“Unfortunately, I think world leaders are very aware that much of what he says is untrue,” he said. “Certainly people here are because these things are provably untrue, just factually incorrect.”
“I don’t know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard and debases our country in the way that he does,” he continued.
Then, following a lunch between Trump and Republican senators that was supposed to focus on tax reform legislation, Corker took a few more digs at Trump.
He painted a very different picture of the meeting than did his fellow Republicans, who said it was “very productive.” Corker said there were “no details about anything” from the president during the meeting. He added that “tax reform barely came up” and replied “not really” when asked if the meeting was anything more than a photo-op.
At virtually the same time, Flake formally announced that he was not going to seek reelection in 2018. The Arizona Republican – who has been critical of Trump for much of the past two years, even writing a book detailing his problems with the GOP, Trump, and his platform – delivered a powerful rebuke of the president and the state of Republican politics from the Senate floor soon after the announcement.
In a piercing 17-minute indictment of Trump, Flake called the president “reckless, outrageous, and undignified.”
“I rise today with no small measure of regret,” he said. “Regret because of the state of our disunion. Regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics. Regret because of the indecency of our discourse. Regret because of the core regret because of the coarseness of our leadership. Regret for the compromise of our moral authority.
“And by our, I mean all of our complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs,” he continued. “It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.”
Flake also called on Americans not to regard what is happening in the Trump administration as “normal.”
“We must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue with the tone set at the top,” he said. “We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country. The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institution, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency, the reckless provocations most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve. None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal.”
Trump’s behavior, he said, “is dangerous to a democracy.”
As Independent Journal Review reporter Haley Byrd tweeted following his speech, the Arizona Republican received standing ovations from Republicans such as Sens. Mitch McConnell, Bob Corker, John Barrasso, and Todd Young, in addition to Democrats including Sens. Chris Coons, Tim Kaine, Maggie Hassan, and Jeff Merkley.
Though Trump had yet to respond to Flake’s comments as of Tuesday evening, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during Tuesday’s press briefing that she “thought a lot of the language wasn’t befitting of the Senate floor.”
Flake, in an interview with CNN following his floor speech, did not agree with that assessment.
The day-long rebuke came less than a week after the two most recent former US presidents, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, blasted the state of US politics in a pair of separate events. Both Obama and Bush did not use Trump’s name, and Sanders said their condemnation of US politics was not aimed at Trump.