Trump challenges Tillerson to IQ test
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump challenged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to “compare IQ tests,” delivering a sharp-edged ribbing that threw a bright spotlight on his seemingly shaky relationship with his top diplomat. The White House insisted the president was only joking.
Trump issued the challenge in an interview with Forbes magazine, when asked about reports that Tillerson called him a “moron” after a classified briefing this summer. The president responded that if the claim was true, the two should duke it out in a battle of brainpower.
“And I can tell you who is going to win,” Trump said.
The White House and the State Department suggested Tuesday that the president was simply trying to make light of what they describe as inaccurate reports of tension.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump lashed out at Sen. Bob Corker as “Liddle' Bob Corker” on Tuesday, escalating a feud with the Tennessee Republican who's dubbed the White House an “adult day care center” and charged that Trump could be setting the nation on the path toward World War III.
Fellow GOP senators, treading carefully, avoided siding with Trump or with Corker. But leading lawmakers called on both men to end a quarrel that could imperil the Republican agenda on Capitol Hill. Trump will need Corker if he is to get big tax changes through the Senate, where the narrow GOP majority was unable to repeal Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. And Corker also figures to be a key player if Trump moves as expected to unwind the Iran nuclear deal.
“I have a lot of respect for Sen. Corker and what he brings to the Senate, but I think the president is leading in the right direction and I'm supportive of what he's doing,” Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the GOP leadership, told reporters Tuesday at the Capitol. “I would encourage them both to stop what they're doing and get focused on what we need to be doing.”
Sen. Cory Gardner, another high-ranking Republican, issued a similar plea to reporters at home in Colorado.
“I'm not going to get in the middle of this fight, but I don't think it's helpful to have finger-pointing and name-calling on either side,” Gardner said. “We need to have people focusing on one thing and one thing only, and that's what we're going to do to create more opportunity for the American people.”
Trump's tweet Tuesday alleged that Corker was “set up” by “the failing” New York Times in a recorded interview Sunday. Corker, who is not running for re-election, leveled searing criticism at Trump in the interview and said the president's conduct “would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.” Corker also said that Trump could set the U.S. “on the path to World War III” with threats toward other countries.
Trump responded to that charge Tuesday as he addressed reporters in the Oval Office while meeting with Henry Kissinger.
“We were on the wrong path before,” Trump said. “All you have to do is take a look. If you look over the last 25 years, through numerous administrations, we were on a path to a very big problem, a problem like this world has never seen. We're on the right path right now, believe me.”
Trump also disputed the suggestion that his spat with Corker would affect his efforts to pass tax reform.
“I don't think so, no, I don't think so at all,” he said in response to a reporter's question. “I think we're well in our way.”
Earlier, Trump took to Twitter to voice his grievances over Corker's New York Times interview, belittling the senator's relatively short stature and writing that Corker “was made to sound a fool, and that's what I am dealing with!” Corker's office declined to respond.
Corker's comments echoed what some Republicans say privately, and drew public backing from another Republican who's announced his retirement, Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, who said more Republicans should be willing to speak out against Trump.
“What I believe Republicans should do in Congress is this: Work constructively with him and support him when he's on the right track, check him when he's moving in a bad direction, and call him out if he makes outlandish statements or offensive statements,” Dent said.
But Trump still has plenty of loyalists on Capitol Hill, several of whom voiced displeasure with Corker's remarks. Corker's fellow Tennessean, Rep. Diane Black, said in an interview on the “Hugh Hewitt Show” on Tuesday that “if you talk about an adult day care center, I'm sorry, but I think the Senate is an adult day care center. They can't get anything done over there.”