Corker Says Trump WH Needs ‘Radical Changes’ But Won’t Say Which Ones

FILE -- In this photo from Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington about the government stalemate. Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, removed himself Wednesday from consideration as Donald Trump’s vice-presidential running mate.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
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Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) lobbed a few barbs at the Trump administration on Thursday, saying the White House needed “radical changes.” But the senator stopped short of offering any specific criticisms or personnel changes.

The comments fit a mold of vague criticism from the conservative Republican, who in June 2016 insisted that Trump “is going to have to change.” In May, Corker scolded a White House he said was in a “downward spiral.” Still, Corker shows no sign of abandoning Trump, nor the White House’s policy goals.

“I do think there need to be some radical changes” at the White House, he told reporters Thursday after addressing the Rotary Club of Chattanooga. Chloé Morrison of Nooga.com posted video of the scrum. “The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

“He also, recently, has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation,” Corker added.

He even made a veiled criticism of Trump’s response to the white supremacist protesters who occupied Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. Trump directly compared them to the counter-protesters demonstrating against racism.

“Helping inspire divisions because it generates support from your political base is not a formula for causing our nation to advance, our nation to overcome the many issues we have to deal with right now,” Corker said. “Anything that’s said to make them feel that their standing in our nation is enhanced is repugnant,” he added later, referring to white supremacist groups. “So I don’t know what else I can say.”

But Corker stopped short of offering specific criticism.

Asked if he was worried voters might misunderstand his cooperation with the Trump administration as “blind support of things that seem kind of crazy,” Corker hedged back and forth, eventually echoing Trump’s own campaign slogan. “Our role is to make our nation great, to overcome these issues,” he said, not specifying which issues he meant.

He added: “I will say, we’re at a point where there needs to be radical changes that take place at the White House itself. It has to happen.”

Asked specifically what changes he wanted, Corker refused to answer.

“On the radical change in the White House, do you mean personnel — that maybe they need to reshape the White House, or the President needs to change, or the existing organization?” a reporter asked.

“There just needs to be a different approach,” Corker said.

“Does Steve Bannon need to go?” the reporter pressed.

“I don’t get into personalities,” Corker said. “I don’t get into personalities.”

He also declined to comment on Rep. Steve Cohen’s (D-TN) introduction of articles of impeachment against President Trump hours earlier.

Corker did distinguish himself from Trump on one notable issue. Though Trump on Thursday lamented that “beautiful” confederate monuments and statues were being taken down in many cities across the country, Corker indicated his support of removing a bust of Nathaniel Bedford Forrest, a Confederate veteran and a prominent and early member of the Ku Klux Klan, from the Tennessee Capitol.

“We want to keep our history, we don’t want to wash away our history, but let’s put it in a museum,” Corker said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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