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Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) escalated his criticisms of President Donald Trump on Tuesday morning in a series of interviews with major news networks, calling on the President to back off of tax reform and relations with North Korea and predicting that he will be remembered for the “debasement” of the United States.
Corker, who’s been blunt with his thoughts about the President ever since announcing he wouldn’t run for re-election next year, made the comments over the course of several hours. He appeared on NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America, and CBS’ “This Morning” for planned interviews, but made some of his most stunning comments in a hallway interview with CNN later in the morning.
Below are the highlights:
He said Trump will be remembered for ‘debasement’ of the U.S.
Asked if the President is a good role model for young people in the country, Corker emphatically said Trump is not—and predicted that he will be most remembered for debasing the country.
“I think at the end of the day when his term is over, I think the debasement of our nation is what he’ll be remembered most for, and that’s regretful. It affects young people,” Corker told CNN. “I mean, we have young people who for the first time are watching a president, stating, you know, absolute nontruths nonstop. Personalizing things in the way that he does. It’s very sad for our nation.”
He thinks Trump won’t “rise to the occasion as President”
The Tennessee senator told several networks that it’s beginning to look like Trump will not change his behavior in office.
“I guess like all Americans I would have hoped that he would rise to the occasion and bring out the best in our nation,” he told CBS. “Hopefully what presidents do is to try to bring the country together, unify around common goals and not to debase our country, if you will, and that has not happened. And I’m beginning to believe it’s not going to happen.”
“I don’t really hold out a lot of hope, but I hope somehow a little bit different course of action can be taken,” Corker added later on CNN.
He also told CNN that Trump is “not going to rise to the occasion as president.”
He won’t be voting for Trump in 2020
Corker said definitively that he would not back Trump’s re-election in 2020.
When asked if he regrets backing Trump in 2016, Corker told CNN, “Let’s just put it this way, I would not do that again.” Asked if he would back Trump in 2020, Corker replied, “No way. No way.”
“I think that he’s proven himself unable to rise to the occasion, and I think many of us, me included, have tried to, you know—I’ve intervened, I’ve had a private dinner and have been with him on multiple occasions to try and create some kind of aspirational approach, if you will, to the way that he conducts himself,” he said. “I don’t think that that’s possible.”
He thinks Trump doesn’t have any “desire to be competent”
Corker believes Trump is simply unwilling to be a competent leader.
“I expressed concerns a few weeks ago about his leadership, and just his stability and the lack of desire to be competent on issues and understand, and, you know, nothing has changed,” he told CNN.
He thinks Trump tries to “purposely divide” the country
The senator said on CBS that Trump has acted as a divider rather than a unifier, particularly in the wake of violence at the fatal white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“It appears to be the governing model of this White House to purposefully divide,” Corker told CBS. “An individual in that particular position has tremendous power to set the tone for our country, and unfortunately, it’s being set in a way that I think is not bringing out the best in the citizens that we all treasure here in our country.”
He believes Trump is “untruthful”—and world leaders know it
While discussing generally how Trump constantly tells what he chose to label “untruths,” Corker noted that world leaders have picked up on Trump’s habit of playing fast and loose with the facts.
“Unfortunately, I think world leaders are very aware that much of what he says is untrue,” he told CNN. “Certainly people here are because these things are provably untrue, I mean, they are factually incorrect and people know the difference. So I don’t know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard, and debases our country in a way that he does, but he does.”
Trump’s “kneecapping” Tillerson could lead to war, he said
Corker lamented on ABC that Trump has undermined Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, warning that Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric could lead the U.S. into a war.
“When you look at the fact that we’ve got this issue in North Korea and the President continues to kneecap his diplomatic representative, the secretary of state, and really move him away from successful diplomatic negotiations with China, which is key to this, you’re taking us on a path to combat,” Corker said.
“I would just like him to leave it to the professionals for a while and see if we can do something that’s constructive for our country, the region, and the world,” he added later.
“I would just like for [Pres. Trump] to leave it to the professionals for a while.” – Senator Bob Corker on President and North Korea pic.twitter.com/qQiC2NwjIX
After Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) questioned President Donald Trump’s approach to foreign policy on several morning news shows Tuesday, the President quickly fired back at the senator, reviving his claim that Corker will not seek re-election because Trump would not endorse him.
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’s outburst on Twitter came after Corker said Tuesday morning that Trump has a tendency to “kneecap” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as the nation’s top diplomat works with China to address North Korea’s attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon. Corker said on NBC’s “Today” that Trump’s tweets about North Korea and Tillerson’s efforts have moved “our country into a binary choice, which could lead to a world war.” On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Corker said the President should “leave it to the professionals for a while and see if we can do something that’s constructive for our country, the region, and the world.”
The senator also dismissed Trump’s lunch with Republican senators on Tuesday as merely a “photo op,” suggesting Trump will be of no help as Congress works on legislation to cut taxes.
As Senate Republicans prepared to meet with President Donald Trump on Tuesday during their weekly caucus lunch, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) told NBC News on Monday that the meeting is just a photo op.
“Tomorrow’s a photo op. Nothing more, nothing less, and I think to read anything more into it would be spending a lot of time on something that shouldn’t be spent a lot of time on,” he told NBC News.
“It’s going to be up and down for the next three years,” he added. “That’s just the way it’s going to be. I don’t read anything anymore other than a photo op. ”
Corker told NBC News that Congress must take the reins on tax reform.
“You got to remember, tax reform is our agenda. It’s the Senate’s agenda. It’s a House agenda. This was something that’s been on our agenda long before the President ran for president. So, to act as if it’s his agenda, it’s our agenda,” the senator said. “You understand? I mean, that’s — tomorrow’s a photo op. Okay?”
The senator, who is set to retire at the end of his term, has recently spoken out against Trump, lamenting that the President undermines his staff. Trump in return has criticized Corker, claiming that the senator decided against seeking another term because he could not win Trump’s endorsement. Corker has disputed that narrative.
Corker also made the rounds on morning news shows Tuesday morning, reiterating his concerns about the President’s approach to foreign policy. On NBC’s “Today,” Corker said that Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly work to “contain” Trump, but that Trump “kneecaps” Tillerson.
“I do think when you have the kind of issue we’re dealing with in North Korea where we have a very unstable leader there, when you send out tweets into the region to raise tensions, when you kneecap — which is what he’s done publicly, when you kneecap your secretary of state whose diplomacy you have to depend upon to really bring China to the table to do the things that need to be done, back-channelling in some cases to North Korea — when you kneecap that effort, you really move our country into a binary choice, which could lead to a world war,” Corker said on NBC. “I want him to support diplomatic efforts, not embarrass and really malign efforts that are underway to try to get some kind of diplomatic solution here, and I think most people would agree with that.”
The senator echoed this on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” saying that he would like Trump “to leave it to the professionals for a while and see if we can do something that’s constructive for our country, the region, and the world.”
After Corker’s appearances on morning news shows, Trump quickly fired back at the senator with tweets claiming that Corker could not get re-elected to the Senate without his help.
Ousted Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on Monday evening apologized to fellow former Fox News host Eric Bolling for mentioning the death of Bolling’s son while attacking the media for reporting on sexual harassment allegations.
Apologies to Eric Bolling and prayers for him and his family. The message I tried to send was that allegations harm kids. Nothing more.
Following a report in the New York Times over the weekend revealing that O’Reilly reached a $32 million settlement with a Fox News analyst who accused the former Fox host of sexual harassment and misconduct, O’Reilly has been on a tear. He has lashed out at the media, claiming that news outlets are out to get him.
He also criticized the media for hurting the families of those accused of harassment, bringing up the death of Bolling’s son — Bolling’s son died hours after Fox News announced Bolling would leave the network after sexual harassment allegations.
“I urge you to think about what you put in your newspaper. Eric Bolling’s son is dead,” O’Reilly told the New York Times. “He’s dead because of allegations made — in my opinion and I know this to be true — against Mr. Bolling.”
Bolling quickly called out O’Reilly for bringing his son’s death into the situation.
“I believe it is beyond inappropriate for anyone to bring in the tragic death of my son Eric Chase Bolling,” he said in a statement to the New York Times.
Megyn Kelly revealed Monday that she complained about Bill O’Reilly’s behavior to Fox News executives in 2016, criticizing the way the network handled harassment allegations against both O’Reilly and the network’s former CEO Roger Ailes.
The revelation on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today” came after the New York Times revealed that O’Reilly paid a $32 million sexual harassment settlement in January, a few months before he was ousted from Fox News. Despite reports that he’d paid settlements to several women who accused him of sexual harassment, O’Reilly claimed that no one at the network ever lodged a formal complaint against him.
“In the more than 20 years Bill O’Reilly worked at Fox News, not one complaint was filed against him with the Human Resources Department or Legal Department by a coworker, even on the anonymous hotline,” an O’Reilly spokesman said over the weekend.
Kelly noted that while it’s possible no woman filed a formal complaint to human resources, she herself complained to executives about O’Reilly in an email she sent in November 2016.
“Fox News was not exactly a friendly environment for harassment victims who wanted to report, in my experience,” she said. “However, O’Reilly’s suggestion that no one ever complained about his behavior is false. I know because I complained.”
O’Reilly refused to discuss allegations against Ailes in an appearance on CBS News the day Kelly’s book was released, saying, “I’m not interested in, basically, litigating something that is finished, that makes my networks look bad.” Kelly said that interview prompted her to complain to Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy, the co-presidents of Fox News.
Kelly said she wrote in the email at the time:
“Perhaps he didn’t realize the kind of message his criticism sends to young women across this country about how men continue to view the issue of speaking out about sexual harassment. Perhaps he didn’t realize that his exact attitude of shaming women into shutting the hell up about harassment on grounds that ‘it will disgrace the company’ is in part how Fox News got into the decade-long Ailes mess to begin with. Perhaps it’s his own history of harassment of women which has, as you both know, resulted in payouts to more than one woman, including recently, that blinded him to the folly of saying anything other than ‘I am just so sorry for the women of this company who never should have had to go through that.’”
Kelly recalled that Shine told her that he would deal with O’Reilly. However, O’Reilly went on air that same night to attack Ailes’ accusers, she noted.
“This is not unique to Fox News.Women everywhere are used to being dismissed, ignored or attacked when raising complaints about men in authority positions. They stay silent so often out of fear,” Kelly said.
The former Fox host also called out the media relations head at Fox News, who’s reported to retaliate against ex-employees who speak out against the network by orchestrating negative coverage in the press.
“At Fox News, the media relations chief Irena Briganti is known for her vindictiveness. To this day, she pushes negative articles on certain Ailes accusers, like the one you are looking at right now,” Kelly said.
Kelly did say that Fox News “has absolutely made some reforms since all of this went down” after calling out Briganti.
Asked about Kelly’s comments about O’Reilly and her complaint, 21st Century Fox replied Monday with a statement about its efforts to change the way the company handles harassment allegations.
“21st Century Fox has taken concerted action to transform Fox News, including installing new leaders, overhauling management and on-air talent, expanding training, and increasing the channels through which employees can report harassment or discrimination,” the company said in a statement. “These changes come from the top, with Lachlan and James Murdoch personally leading the effort to promote civility and respect on the job, while maintaining the Company’s long-held commitment to a diverse, inclusive and creative workplace.”
21st Century Fox later followed up with a statement standing by Irena Briganti.
“Irena is a valued colleague and she has our full support,” the company said in a statement.
After Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, spoke out for the first time on Monday about her call with President Donald Trump, the President quickly responded on Twitter, claiming that he said her husband’s name on the call “without hesitation.”
I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!
“I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name,” she said. “And that was hurting me the most because if my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name?”
Johnson also backed up Rep. Frederica Wilson’s (D-FL) account of the call. Wilson said last week that Trump told Johnson that her husband “knew what he was signing up for.” Trump has repeatedly accused Wilson of lying about the call, even though several people have confirmed her account.
Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, a soldier killed in Niger earlier in October, spoke out in public for the first time since her husband’s death on Monday morning and confirmed Rep. Frederica Wilson’s (D-FL) account of President Donald Trump’s call with Johnson.
Johnson told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that Trump seemed to forget her husband’s name on the call and told her that her husband knew what he was signing up for, as Wilson told the press last week.
“The President said that he knew what he signed up for but it hurts anyway,” Johnson told “Good Morning America.” “It made me cry because I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said it.”
“He couldn’t remember my husband’s name,” she continued, adding that Trump only remembered Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s name because he had his report in front of him.
“I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name,” she said. “And that was hurting me the most because if my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name? And that’s what made me upset and cry even more.”
“[Pres. Trump] couldn’t remember my husband’s name. … That’s what hurt me the most.” – Myeshia Johnson, widow of Sgt. La David Johnson pic.twitter.com/px5io2RbJB
Johnson told GMA that she asked for the phone to go on speaker phone while in the car with Wilson and others so that her family could hear the call with the President. Wilson then revealed to the press that Trump told Johnson that her husband “knew what he was signing up for.”
The President has repeatedly accused Wilson of lying, even after White House Chief of Staff John Kelly essentially confirmed the congresswoman’s account of the call.
Johnson told GMA that Wilson did not fabricate Trump’s comments on the call.
“What she said was 100 percent correct,” she said.
Johnson is also still looking for answers about her husband’s death and is upset that the military has not let her see her husband’s remains.
“I don’t know how he got killed, where he got killed, or anything,” she told GMA.
In an interview about the Vietnam War taped last week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) appeared to criticize President Donald Trump for receiving a draft deferment for bone spurs during the Vietnam War.
The Arizona senator did not mention the President by name but specifically called out “high-income Americans” who got doctors’ notes for a “bone spur.”
“One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America, and the highest-income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur,” McCain told C-SPAN in an interview that aired Sunday. “That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.”
Trump deferred the draft five times, four while he was in school and the fifth for bone spurs. He acknowledged in a 2016 New York Times interview that he visited a doctor who wrote him a letter for draft officials. Trump said that the bone spurs were “temporary” and “minor.”
“I had a doctor that gave me a letter — a very strong letter on the heels,” Trump told the Times.
McCain served in the Vietnam War and was tortured as a prisoner of war. During the 2016 campaign, Trump suggested he did not believe McCain was a true war hero because he was “captured.”
Watch a clip of McCain’s interview on C-SPAN. He makes the comment about bone spurs at the 1:55 mark.
A video of Rep. Frederica Wilson’s (D-FL) speech at a 2015 FBI building dedication ceremony, taken by the Sun Sentinel newspaper and resurfaced on Friday, shows that the congresswoman did not brag about securing the funding for the building as White House Chief of Staff John Kelly claimed she had.
Kelly joined the White House press briefing Thursday to defend President Trump’s call to the widow of a fallen U.S. soldier who was close to Wilson. In defending Trump’s comments to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, which Wilson said were hurtful, Kelly criticized the congresswoman for being present for the call and then speaking out about it.
He also brought up a speech Wilson gave in 2015 for the FBI building dedication, claiming that she bragged about how she “got the money” for the building and calling her an “empty barrel.”
Wilson called Kelly’s description of her speech a “lie,” noting that funding for the building had been secured before she ever took office and that she only helped to pass legislation naming the building after two slain FBI agents. The video from the Sun Sentinel appears to support Wilson’s version of events.
In the speech, Wilson describes how she and congressional leaders worked together to pass legislation to name the FBI building, after the starting the process just four weeks prior to the dedication ceremony at the agency’s request. She said it was a “miracle” that the bill passed both chambers and was signed by President Barack Obama in time.
She said that her effort and that of her colleagues who also pushed for the bill “speaks to the respect that our Congress has for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the men and women who put their lives on the line every single day.”
She then honored FBI agents gathered in the room, as well as the two special agents who died in a gunfight in 1986, Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove, for whom the new building was named.
“We are proud of their sacrifice, the sacrifice for our nation. It is only fitting that their names be placed on the same mantel as the FBI,” she said in the speech.
Despite the release of the video, the White House stood by Kelly’s criticism of Wilson’s speech, again calling her an “empty barrel.”
“Gen. Kelly said he was ‘stunned’ that Rep. Wilson made comments at a building dedication honoring slain FBI agents about her own actions in Congress, including lobbying former President Obama on legislation. As Gen. Kelly pointed out, if you’re able to make a sacred act like honoring American heroes about yourself, you’re an empty barrel,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
Wilson did not note in the speech that she lobbied Obama. She only said that he signed the bill quickly.
After the Sun Sentinel released the video, Wilson touted on Twitter the “proof” for her account of the FBI building dedication speech.
proof noun noun: proof; plural noun: proofs 1. evidence or argument establishing or helping to establish a fact or the truth of a statement. https://t.co/Wcj85lXjmD
Lara Trump on Friday backed up Rep. Frederica Wilson’s (D-FL) account of President Donald Trump’s phone call to the widow of a fallen soldier, even as she said she believed the congresswoman and the press took a comment that Wilson said was hurtful to the widow out of context.
Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt revealed during an interview on “Fox and Friends” that Trump, the wife of the President’s son Eric, had seen the transcript of the call. Trump described her father-in-law’s remark as coming during a broader comment on Sgt. La David Johnson’s commitment to serving his country.
“From what I have seen, this is a clear case of the media not doing their job. Whenever you read exactly what he said, he said ‘your husband went in to battle, you know, knowing that he could be injured, knowing that he could be killed and he still did it because he loves his country and he did it for the American people,'” Trump told Earhardt. “I can’t think of a better way, quite frankly, to express my gratitude to someone than by saying something like that. And yet they conveniently leave off the last part of what was said.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied to reporters on Friday afternoon that there is a transcript of the call. She said she believes Lara Trump “was responding to reports and things that she had read” and directed additional questions to the Trump campaign.
Wilson said this week that when the President called Myeshia Johnson, the soldier’s widow, he told her that her husband “knew what he was signing up for.” Other people who heard the call confirmed that account, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly backed it up Thursday when he told reporters that he’d advised Trump to tell Gold Star families that their lost loved ones knew what they had signed up for.
While Lara Trump argued that the President’s comments were simply made public without the full context, her father-in-law launched a far less nuanced attack on Wilson. He has repeatedly accused the congresswoman of lying, even after Kelly essentially confirmed Wilson’s story.
Eric Trump also took part in the interview, calling criticism of his father’s comments to Johnson “disgusting.”
“I think it shows the absolute worst of politics,” he said. “Here is the President of the United States calling to express his condolences on behalf of an incredibly grateful nation, and people turned it into a political item. To me, it’s disgusting.”