Trump, Corker Trade Shots on Twitter -- Update

By Joshua Jamerson Features Dow Jones Newswires

President Donald Trump and a senior Republican senator traded personal barbs on Twitter Sunday, the latest example of tensions between the president and senators in his party.

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Mr. Trump criticized Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who had recently suggested there is "chaos" in the White House and said he wouldn't back the GOP tax bill, a top party priority, if it added to the deficit.

Mr. Trump wrote on Sunday that Mr. Corker had announced last month that he wouldn't seek re-election because he "didn't have the guts to run" for office without the president's 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)," Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Trump also wrote that Mr. Corker wanted to be secretary of state but that Mr. Trump declined to offer the position. "Hence, I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice" regarding Mr. Trump's agenda, he wrote.

Mr. Corker responded shortly after, writing: "It's a shame the White House has become an adult day-care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning."

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Mr. Corker's staff also disputed the president's account of his decision to not seek re-election.

Todd Womack, Mr. Corker's chief of staff, said Sunday that Mr. Trump "called Sen. Corker on Monday afternoon and asked him to reconsider his decision not to seek re-election and reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times."

Outgoing politicians sometimes feel greater latitude to speak their mind, a characteristic Mr. Corker said would "maybe" apply to him during his final 15 months in office.

Amid reports of tensions between Mr. Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Mr. Corker told reporters recently that he hoped Mr. Tillerson would stay on at the State Department.

"I think Secretary Tillerson, Mattis and Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos," Mr. Corker said, referring to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

"They work very well together to make sure the policies we put forth around the world are sound and coherent. There are other people within the administration, in my belief, who don't," Mr. Corker said.

Mr. Corker has also laid out the terms for winning his support for a tax overhaul, saying he wouldn't vote for any plan that raises the deficit. The tax overhaul is a priority for Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the GOP tax plan would generate more than enough economic growth to offset the cost.

Mr. Trump has criticized several GOP senators in recent months, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his failure to move health-care legislation through the Senate.

The White House couldn't immediately be reached to explain what prompted Mr. Trump's tweets, but top aides and people who speak for the administrations have repeatedly described the president as a "counterpuncher" who will return fire at his critics.

Write to Joshua Jamerson at joshua.jamerson@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 08, 2017 16:54 ET (20:54 GMT)