• Politics
  • republicans

Bob Corker Did Everything But Call Trump a ‘Liar.’ Read His Full Interview

6 minute read

Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker unleashed a scathing attack on President Donald Trump in an interview with CNN on Tuesday morning, accusing him of “debasing” the country and refusing to say whether he trusted him with the nuclear codes.

Along with a string of acidic tweets from Trump, the back-and-forth amounted to an escalation of the most bitter feud in Republican politics right now. Corker said Trump has “great difficulty with the truth” but stopped short of calling him a liar, adding “we grew up in our family not using the ‘L’ word.”

Corker also said Trump is not a good role model for American children, and that many foreign leaders were “very aware” that much of what he says is untrue.

“People like liddle’ Bob Corker have set the U.S. way back,” Trump said on Twitter in response. “Now we move forward!”


Read the full transcript of the interview with CNN’s Manu Raju, below:

RAJU: [Trump said] You didn’t run for reelection because you couldn’t get his endorsement. Is that accurate?

CORKER: No, it’s not accurate… you know, nothing he said in his tweets today was truthful or accurate. He knows it and people around him know it. I would hope the staff over there would figure out ways of controlling him when they know that everything he said today was absolutely untrue.

RAJU: And you said he’s an untruthful President. No question?

CORKER: Yeah, no question. We grew up in our family not using the “L” word, okay, and they’re provable untruths. I mean, on the Iran deal everybody knows the role I played there. They are working with me, interestingly, right now on tax reform, I made the deal with Toomey that has allowed that to go forward. Obviously I wanna make sure it’s done properly. And everything else, I mean, four times he encouraged me to run and told me he would endorse me. So I don’t know, it’s amazing.

Unfortunately I think world leaders are very aware that much of what he says is untrue. Certainly people here are, because these things are provably untrue. I mean, they’re just 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 the way that he does, but he does.

I don’t like responding, you know, you can let him go unanswered but it’s just not me to… we don’t do tweets like that, we’ve responded twice to, again, untruths, but it’s unfortunate that our nation finds itself in this place.

RAJU: Is the President of the United States a liar?

CORKER: The president has great difficulty with the truth. On many issues.

RAJU: Do you regret supporting him in the election?

CORKER: Uh, let’s just put it this way: I would not do that again.

RAJU: You wouldn’t support him again.

CORKER: No way. No way. I think that he’s proven himself unable to rise to the occasion, I think many of us, me included, have tried to… I’ve intervened, I’ve had a private dinner, I’ve been with him on multiple occasions to try to create some kind of aspirational… approach if you will, to the way that he conducts himself. But I don’t think that that’s possible and he’s obviously not going to rise to the occasion as President.

RAJU: Do you think he’s a role model to children in the United States?


RAJU: You don’t.

CORKER: No. Absolutely not. I think that the things that are happening right now that are harmful to our nation, whether it’s the breaking down of… we’re gonna be doing some hearings on some of the things that he purposely is breaking down the relationships we have around the world that have been useful to our nation. But I think at the end of the day when his term is over, I think the debasing of our nation, the constant non truth-telling, just the name calling, I think the debasement of our nation will be what he’ll be remembered most for, and that’s regretful. And it affects young people. I mean, we have young people who for the first time are watching a President stating absolute non-truths non-stop. Personalising things in the way that he does. And it’s very sad for our nation.

RAJU: Do you trust him with access to the nuclear codes?

CORKER: I don’t wanna go into, you know I don’t wanna (inaudible) … In our hearing process certainly we’re going to be addressing the fact that he with only one other person on the defense side has tremendous powers. And again, I don’t wanna carry this much further, but look I expressed concerns a few weeks ago about his leadership, and his stability, and the lack of desire to be competent on issues, and understand, and nothing has changed. But again I don’t wanna make this a daily issue… (inaudible) the work that we need to do, and he currently is the person that from the executive side we have to deal with. And the shame of it is there are some really good people round him. And if he would stay out of their way and let them perform, people like Tillerson, Mattis and others, you know, we could really make progress on things that matter greatly to our country.

RAJU: Do you (inaudible) out like this if you were not (inaudible)

CORKER: (Inaudible) I did that, this has been building for months, and you know that, you’ve been covering this. Look, I came up here as a person who had a mission to be here for two terms, and it was hard to say you were gonna leave, no question, but I followed through on that. And I think it’s that independence of knowing you aren’t making this a career that, look, it certainly makes a difference. I think the American people know that. But… I don’t know what else to say.

RAJU: Will you be going to lunch today?

CORKER: Oh definitely, to my lunch. (laughs)

RAJU: Are you going to talk to the President?

CORKER: Who knows.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Billy Perrigo at billy.perrigo@time.com