Monday 17 December 2018

Trump is debasing country, say Republican senators

Senator Bob Corker walks to a committee hearing after speaking to members of the press on Capitol Hill about US President Donald Trump. Photo: Getty Images
Senator Bob Corker walks to a committee hearing after speaking to members of the press on Capitol Hill about US President Donald Trump. Photo: Getty Images

Amanda Becker

Two US senators launched blistering attacks on Donald Trump last night, accusing their fellow Republican of debasing politics and the country's standing abroad in extraordinary public criticisms of a sitting president.

The onslaught from Jeff Flake and Bob Corker marked a sharp increase in tensions in what has been a fraught relationship between the president and congressional Republicans as Mr Trump tries to enact his policy agenda.

In a dramatic speech on the Senate floor, Mr Flake repeatedly targeted Mr Trump's style of governing, saying American politics had become "inured" to "reckless, outrageous and undignified" behaviour from the White House.

"The instinct to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people," said Mr Flake, who also announced he would not run for re-election next year.

"I will not be complicit or silent," he added.

By announcing he would be leaving when his term ended in early 2019, Mr Flake has effectively freed himself up to speak his mind, without having one eye on voter reactions.

Senator Bob Corker, who also said previously he was not running for re-election, earlier called Mr Trump a liar who had damaged the country's standing in the world, eviscerating the president with comments that stirred deepening divisions in the Republican Party.

"The president has great difficulty with the truth on many issues," Mr Corker said.

The revolt by the two senators, which could complicate Mr Trump's efforts to push through his policy priorities, came just as the president sought to build consensus around proposed tax cuts. Republicans control both chambers of Congress, but hold just a 52-48 majority in the 100-seat Senate.

Over the summer, Mr Trump pilloried Senate Republicans - as a group and some by name - after they failed to garner sufficient votes to repeal and replace the 2010 healthcare law known as Obamacare, one of his top presidential campaign promises.

The dollar lost ground on news that Mr Flake would not seek re-election because it added to investor worries about the fate of the tax plan, which had widely been seen as a potential boost to American companies.

Mr Corker pulled no punches in his latest attack on the president.

World leaders know that much of what Mr Trump says "is untrue", he claimed.

Mr Corker, who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that Mr Trump's presidency would be remembered for the "debasement" of the country.

He said Mr Trump's "constant non-truth telling" meant he was lowering the office of the presidency and failing to be a role model for children.

Mr Corker also said he would not support Mr Trump if he ran for the White House again and declined to say that he trusted the president with nuclear weapons.

The two outbursts mark the most heated attack by Republican senators on Mr Trump since he entered office.

It came just hours before Mr Trump was due to sit down with Republican senators to discuss his tax cut plans amid hopes a new law could be passed by Christmas.

It is not the first time Mr Corker has clashed with Mr Trump. He has joked the White House was like an "adult day-care centre".

Yesterday morning, Mr Trump renewed his criticism of Mr Corker, saying he "couldn't get elected dog catcher" and decided not to run after Mr Trump refused to endorse him.

Addressing cameras in the corridors of Congress, Mr Corker rejected the claims and went on to give a scathing assessment of the US president.

"Everything he said today was absolutely untrue," Mr Corker said. "We grew up in our family not using the 'l' words, but they are provable untruths."

He added: "Unfortunately, I think world leaders are very aware that much of what he says is untrue.

"I don't know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard and debases our country the way he does, but he does."

Irish Independent

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